CLIA Southeast Asia, one year old this month, is reviewing its capabilities to meet the demand from the burgeoning local cruise market.
The offshoot of the global Cruise Lines International Association says it is pleased with progress so far – but more needs to be done.
A statement to ASEAN Cruise News from CLIA Southeast Asia president Ann Sherry, who is CEO of Carnival Australia, said: “There has been a step change in the volume of ships coming into the region along with the number of countries in South East Asia exploring cruise strategies.
“We are undertaking a review of CLIA South East Asia’s capability in order to identify priorities and focus to maintain this positive momentum in future years.
“It is vital to ensure that the travel agent community is in the best possible position to understand the cruise product as well as the ports and destinations for the growing number of ships in the Asian region.”
Ms Sherry continued: “As the recently released South East Asia cruise study showed, growth in the region is very fast and we need to make sure we have the organisational capability to work with the trade and governments to maximise the benefits for the region.
“We will leverage the rapid growth in the Australian market and the work that CLIA Australasia has done in this region.
“CLIA Australasia Managing Director Neil Linwood is assisting in the South East Asia operational review providing the benefit of his many years of cruise industry experience.”
David Goh, secretary general of CLIA SE Asia, told ASEAN Cruise News he is pleased the organisations is increasingly recognized in the region and is in the mindset of travel agents, tour suppliers, port authority officials and government bodies.
“I am pleased with the initial response to the association but much more needs to be done, especially the training of travel agents.
“We have a training program in place adapted from the model in CLIA Australasia in Sydney, but the training is also aligned with CLIA in the US.
“Part of the training program has been localised but the framework and the core of the course is similar to the model in Australia and America.
“It is an online course and agents could complete in eight hours or eight weeks, it all depends on the individual agent. There is also a subsequent practical part of the module which includes visits and famils on board the cruise ship. When agents are familiar with the facilities on board, then they will get the accreditation.’’
Mr Goh hopes to roll out the training program in the first quarter of next year.
One of the stumbling blocks he faced on training came from cruise lines reluctant to pay S$120 per person for the training of travel agents.
“Cruise lines usually provide training of travel agents in-house. Now the association is promoting fee-based training and there is a bit of resistance to payment of fees. It’s a question whether lines see the value proposition.‘’
He is optimistic about the growth of the cruise industry predicting the number of local cruisers to increase by 20 per cent next year.
“We expect strong growth from Singapore and possibly India. More three-generation families including the bread winner’s family and parents buy a four-night or five-night cruise from Singapore to Vietnam or Hong Kong. The entry point for such family cruises is quite attractive especially for bigger international cruise lines.
“Once they have tasted and liked their first cruise, some would look for longer 7-night cruises to the Mediterranean, Alaska, China, Japan and Korea,’’ he says.
China is a much bigger market and if a cruise ship has a majority of Chinese passengers, then there will be a demand for more Chinese food, Chinese music and popular Chinese entertainment like karaoke on board the ship.
Right now, his priority is to convert more land holiday makers to be first time cruisers. And he is determined to achieve it.
The last time he cruised was last December when he went on a 14-night cruise to South America. He is now planning to take his next cruise, this time to Australia and New Zealand in 2016.