During today’s opening General Session at this week’s CLIA’s Cruise360 conference, taking place at the Diplomat Beach Resort Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, Scott Koepf, sr. v.p. of strategic development for Cruise Planners, asked CLIA’s president and CEO Kelly Craighead to use one word to describe what we’ve been through this past year as well as one word to describe what the year ahead looks like. For the first, Craighead said, “hell,” but now, she says, we’re in the moment of “hope.” She noted, “We’ll cruise forward and keep our eyes on the horizon.”

Cruise360 is the first in-person cruise conference in North America since the pandemic began, and that’s not to be taken lightly, especially when you take into account that the conference, although capped, is sold out. “This week is the turning point we’ve all been waiting for,” said Charles Sylvie, v.p., industry and trade relations for CLIA, during the General Session. “This is the center of the cruise universe,” and the fact that “you’re here, shows your enduring love of cruise travel.”

“We’ve never been more relevant and we’re so happy to reunite in person once again.” — Charles Sylvie, Vice President, Industry and Trade Relations, CLIA

During the General Session, executives stressed that there’s still a long road ahead, especially if you keep in mind that 30 million people sailed in 2019, and that by end of summer it’s estimated that only 50 percent of CLIA cruise ships will once again be sailing (although the fact that even 50 percent will be sailing is in itself a huge accomplishment considering all of the challenges the cruise industry has faced—and continues to face—throughout this crisis). To reach pre-pandemic demand, Craighead said, “the most optimistic timeframe is 2023 and most pessimistic is 2025.” Keep in mind, too, that the goal is to have 37 million passengers sailing by 2025 to be able to fill all of those staterooms, including the new cruise ships coming online.

And as Craighead said, “I’m pleased to say that with your [travel advisors] help, we’ve made enormous progress. The industry’s reputation has been challenged like never before. We must do a better job correcting the record and telling the positive story of cruise, including our investments in environmental sustainability which totaled $23.5 billion last year. We’ve seen the power of our collective voice. Let’s build on this momentum, using facts to dispel myths and helping others better understand the positive contributions of the cruise industry around the world.” She added, “We need to keep each and every one of you engaged to be successful.”

One of the ways the organization is keeping you engaged, of course, is through this 6-day conference, which, said Sylvie, will be jam-packed with “learning, best practices sharing, networking and a whole lot of fun.”

We’ve seen the power of our collective voice. Let’s build on this momentum, using facts to dispel myths and helping others better understand the positive contributions of the cruise industry around the world.” — Kelly Craighead, president and CEO, CLIA

During our day exploring the conference, we peeked into a couple of well-attended seminars, including “Adding Value to the Cruise Experience” as well as “Groups 101: Introduction to Groups.” Other seminar topics include “ship inspections” and “cruise events,” and of course there’s an array of product showcases as well as destination and cruise line updates.

One of the most important takeaways from our day spent at Cruise360 was this, noted by Craighead during the General Session: Today, the role of the travel advisor starts with “understanding that you as advisors are part of the cruise community.”

Cruise360 2022 is set to take place in Fort Lauderdale from March 29-April 3. For more information, visit cruising.org/en.

For cruise updates, click here.