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Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) recently announced the appointment of Alex Pinelo, vice president of sales for AmaWaterways, and Nikki Upshaw, senior vice president of Sales for Oceania Cruises, to fill the voluntary positions of chair and vice-chair, respectively, of its Trade Relations Committee (TRC).
The TRC acts as a steering committee in North America consisting of CLIA Global Cruise Line Member trade sales and marketing leaders. It works alongside CLIA leadership to serve U.S. and Canadian travel agencies and advisors.
TravelAge West discussed these new appointments and the short-term future of cruising with Charles Sylvia, ECC, and CLIA’s vice president of industry and trade relations.
What does this new leadership mean to the travel advisor community at large?Whenever new leaders take the helm of the CLIA TRC — which occurs every two years — the incoming chair and vice chair bring to their roles a unique perspective on how they can affect a positive outcome for CLIA Travel Agency Members and Individual Agent Members. In this transition, Alex Pinelo and Nikki Upshaw are especially focused on unifying our industry and its voice. Alex and Nikki have been faithful supporters of travel advisors throughout their careers; I have a strong sense they will bring innovative leadership to the TRC by seeking new and creative ways for CLIA to support the travel trade community.
Resumption of worldwide cruise operations will occur when it is safe for it to happen, and travel agents can look forward to an inundation of pent-up demand as unprecedented as the global crisis that created it.
How will their ocean and river backgrounds and perspectives influence future business?It is critically important for travel agents to be knowledgeable about and focused on all modes of cruise travel — ocean, river, coastal, expedition and yacht — so they can offer a diverse product portfolio to their clients and not be limited to just one market. By having experienced ocean and river cruise executives leading the TRC, we are ensuring a holistic approach to the guidance that they provide CLIA in the curation, development and enhancement of our North America Travel Trade Membership programs.
What progress is CLIA seeing toward the return of cruise travel in the near future?CLIA oceangoing cruise lines made the decision on June 19, 2020, to voluntarily extend the ongoing suspension of U.S. passenger operations until Sept. 15, 2020. CLIA member cruise lines will continually evaluate the evolving situation and determine whether a further extension is necessary.
RELATED: CLIA: Ocean Cruises Are Canceled Until at Least Sept. 15
We expect cruises in some markets are likely to resume in a gradual, phased-in manner, since the virus is at different stages in different parts of the world. At least in some regions, the first cruises that depart are likely to be shorter voyages and more limited itineraries. Cruise lines remain actively engaged with our partners at the local, national and international levels to facilitate alignment and inform cruise industry protocols as they advance through the planning process.
People love to cruise, and that is part of what makes this industry so resilient. We know that people will return to the seas as soon as it is safe to do so, just as they will return to restaurants, bars, movie theaters, airplanes, resorts and beyond. When the ships do return to the seas, the cruise industry will be an important contributor to the global economic and societal recovery.
What hurdles still need to be overcome, and what can individual travel advisors do in the meantime?The biggest challenge ahead of us is helping travel agents instill cruise confidence in their clients and future prospects. Resumption of worldwide cruise operations will occur when it is safe for it to happen, and travel agents can look forward to an inundation of pent-up demand as unprecedented as the global crisis that created it. What travel agents need to be doing, right now, is learning all the facts about the cruise industry’s “people first” commitment to safety, security and the health and well-being of our passengers, crews and the communities upon which we call.
I strongly recommend travel agents regularly visit CLIA’s official COVID-19 facts and resources page, which is a toolkit filled with shareable information and digital assets designed for agents to use on social media to create awareness and educate consumers in their market. Travel agents want to position themselves as cruise industry experts and not simply as cruise travel experts if they want clients to trust them.
The DetailsCruise Lines International Association www.cruising.org