Travel professionals need to be cruise experts: Peter Kollar, Head of International Training & Development, CLIA

Peter Kollar, CLIA Head of International Training & Development is a cruise expert and veteran speaker on the conference circuit across India and Asia over the past seven years. In this special story, read Kollar’s take on the cruise industry.

More than 220,000 Indians cruised in 2018, an increase of 28.1% from the previous year. As one of the most populated countries in the world and with a low cruise penetration rate, the India source market is expected to carry on an upward trajectory.

As cruising continues to grow in India, it is an ideal time to have a look at mature markets that were once in India’s current position and learn from them. Firstly, the two biggest markets of cruisers are from the US and UK, and it’s no coincidence that they have also been the two pioneers of the professional development of cruise education to travel agents.

An educated market is the catalyst for strong source market growth, as agent knowledge is a key driving factor towards client decision-making.

If I compare India to any other market, it would be to where Australia was eight to ten years ago. However, given the population of India,  India is in one of the best positions to capitalise the cruise market than most nations can dream of. But the warning is that potential doesn’t always mean sure success. There is a process which we’ve learnt from other markets that needs to evolve, and the education of agents is one of the critical factors.

Training is necessary

When I look back at those earlier times when I was training agents across Australia and New Zealand, there was still an apprehension to be educated in cruise despite its benefits. Most agents thought their cruise business was not big enough (one or two sales every month) or that they knew enough to sell. But as the years rolled by (and the market grew because of the agents who promoted it), I started to see a shift in my audience. They were getting older; I was starting to get experienced agents who had been selling travel for decades coming for cruise training! It was because they had no choice anymore. Their clients were dictating what they wanted, and in the end, the agents had no other option but to understand cruise better if they had the desire to keep their clients.

The need for cruise education exploded to a point now that there is not a single retail travel business in the country that doesn’t have cruise education as part of their training. So, should you wait until your clients’ demand for cruise holidays increases? I say no.

You need to start learning now, because if you were going to look at the most successful travel businesses currently in Australia, they were the ones who started all that time ago specialising in cruise, becoming cruise accredited and cruise experts, way before others. Many built their business on this and are now reaping the rewards from the explosion of cruise tourism. You can ignore these lessons if you like, but you will be behind the ones who didn’t.

According to Jiali Wong, CLIA’s Regional Manager in Asia, Cruise is an attractive vacation choice to Asian travellers, with cruises a natural fit for families, a key travel segment in Asia. Based on CLIA’s 2018 Source Market report, the majority of Asian markets experienced double-digit year-on-year growth. However, with the low awareness of cruise in Asia, education is an essential step for the region’s stakeholders to expand their business opportunities.

To support our travel partners, CLIA’s global cruise accreditation programme offers its members with access to its Learning Academy, which contains over 50 training modules covering various aspects like the basics of cruising, benefits to agents, consumers and the stakeholders, latest trends in the cruise industry, how to plan, sell and market a cruise product and a cruise destination, industry facts and other modules. Since it is online, you can learn at your own pace and at a time that works best for you. Visit www.cliaasia.org to join.

In addition, events such as that by OTM Mumbai are catalysts for change and innovation. They create an opportunity for engagement with industry colleagues; you can gauge and assess interest and potential in real-time, and even come across avenues you may not have previously contemplated with newly discovered providers.