CLIA covers the globe in size and influence

By Tom Stieghorst
Citing a need to proactively shape the global policy debate, cruise lines around the world have decided to merge the trade associations that represent them under CLIA’s name and management.

The move, designed to amp up cruise lines’ effectiveness on the world stage, will unify nine separate groups scattered on four continents to present a more powerful front to various governments, regulators and communities worldwide.

Howard Frank“We are now truly one industry with one voice,” said Carnival Corp. Vice Chairman Howard Frank.

The group will use the name of its largest member, the Cruise Lines International Association, with non-U.S. groups adding regional tags, such as CLIA-Europe or CLIA-Australia.

Frank will chair the group’s global executive committee, and current CLIA President Christine Duffy will be president and CEO.

In an interview, Duffy said the impetus to reform trade relations predated the Costa Concordia accident last January, but the decision was validated by the post-Concordia experience, when multiple government agencies had to query multiple trade groups to learn policies and procedures.

As a result, Duffy said, “It wasn’t always clear who was speaking for the global cruise industry.”

Among the groups consulted after the Concordia crash were the European Cruise Council and Britain’s Passenger Shipping Association, both of which will be part of the new CLIA.

Other members include the Asia Cruise Association, France’s AFCC, Brazil’s Abremar, the Northwest and Canada Cruise Association, the Alaska Cruise Association and the International Cruise Council Australasia.

One prominent group that was left out is the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association. CLIA spokesman David Pelkin said FCCA doesn’t focus on technical and regulatory issues like the other groups but rather on operations, destinations and customer experience.

Duffy said CLIA began looking at how it was organized starting in November 2011, when it commissioned a study from the Kellen Co., a consulting firm with expertise in trade associations.

The resulting report recommended that the various groups unify, rather than remain independent groups.

Perhaps the most important benefit will be to strengthen CLIA’s hand as the nongovernmental organization representing the cruise industry at the International Maritime Organization.

The IMO, a branch of the United Nations, sets the regulatory framework for global shipping and can amend the Safety of Life at Sea treaty, which dictates safety requirements for ships and crews.

Christine DuffyDuffy said the various affiliates of CLIA will continue to handle regional and local issues. For example, the U.S. office of CLIA would focus on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose jurisdiction doesn’t extend globally.

As for geography, Duffy said there will be regional members of CLIA, such as Louis Cruises, which sails only in the Mediterranean.

“You want to play where your interests are,” she said.

Initially, the global executive committee of CLIA will comprise representatives from the U.S. and European groups. The group will have about 40 members, up from the 26 that now belong to CLIA.

Duffy said CLIA remains dedicated to agent training, one of its traditional missions, but that it will take a fresh look at the subject.

“We’re going to look at the amount of time committed to training, in particular in personal training,” she said.

About 11,000 travel agencies in the U.S. pay from $329 to $409 in annual membership dues to CLIA in return for free and low-cost training and discounts on training materials.

Duffy said the merger would enable CLIA to choose best practices for training used by its various members, such as the Association of Cruise Experts, which trains agents in the U.K.

“We’re making an investment in travel agent training next year,” Duffy said.
Margaret Murphy, the newly appointed senior vice president for marketing and trade relations at CLIA, said the exact nature of the investment was still being determined.

Murphy succeeded Bob Sharak, who will remain with CLIA as a strategic consultant.

Murphy said agents can expect to see fewer DVDs and more videos accessible online. Training modules might be shorter, broken into four 20-minute chunks rather than one 80-minute segment.

Murphy said there will be more use of webinars, in which a trainer can teach up to 200 people online, using interactive technology. CLIA will emphasize training that can be accessed on-demand and at convenient times.

CLIA will teach more than 400 in-person seminars this year. It has four in-house instructors, supplemented by outside contractors. Murphy said travel time to seminars is an issue for some agents.

“They’re saying, ‘If you’re doing classes that are geographically easy for me, then I want it,’” Murphy said.

CLIA will find contractors to provide more social media training that uses a hands-on approach. “It makes all the sense in the world for us to use an outside expert for social media,” Murphy said.

She said that for next year, training staff levels will remain constant while future approaches are evaluated.

Murphy said 2013 “is really the year of redesign.”

Follow Toim Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly. 
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