Christine Duffy, president and CEO of Maritz Travel, is leaving the company to become president of Cruise Lines International Association on February 1. The nonprofit association is the world's largest cruise association, representing the interests of 25 cruise lines and 16,000 travel agencies. She replaces Terry Dale, who was CLIA's president for seven years. Dale is taking over as president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association on January 1.

“It was a tough decision,” said Duffy in an interview. “I spent 20 years at McGettigan and next year will mark the tenth anniversary of McGettigan Partners’ acquisition by Maritz. So it’s been 30 years! But this was an unbelievable opportunity and a good time in my life—a good fit. It takes me back to where I started, as a travel agent for McGettigan. So I am coming almost full circle.”

Duffy helped lead the national public relations and lobbying campaigns in 2008 and 2009 to fight the tarnished image of the meeting and incentive market in the media and in Congress during the recession and the devastating aftermath of the “AIG Effect.”

She will continue her work with the U.S. Travel Association’s board and executive committee, said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel. “Christine will greatly add to the industry's viability in her new CLIA role. She will remain on U.S. Travel's executive committee, as a respected voice for incentive, meeting, and leisure travel."

“I really enjoyed these past two years working with U.S. Travel and association leaders to make a difference,” says Duffy, who will use the Washington, D.C., office of CLIA as her home base, but will also maintain an office at the association’s headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “The cruise industry relies on corporations’ incentives programs. But I will be heavily involved on the leisure side. Cruising is a complex industry and is becoming increasingly global.”

As president and CEO of St. Louis–based Maritz Travel, Duffy managed more than $700 million in clients’ meetings and incentive programs, growing sales by 154 percent since the acquisition of Philadelphia-based McGettigan in 2001. Maritz has been named to Corporate Meetings & Incentives’ CMI 25 list for the past four years. In charge of the pharmaceutical/healthcare sector for Maritz, Duffy has been a staple at the annual Pharmaceutical Meeting Management Forum, organized by Medical Meetings and the Center for Business Intelligence, and will stay involved in meetings industry associations, including the Professional Convention Management Association and Meeting Professionals International.

She will also stay connected to Maritz as an “executive advisor,” which will include a role in the company’s customer advisory boards as well as being an active participant in the search for her replacement at Maritz. “My legacy at Maritz is that I led us through ten years of an industry in transformation, starting after 9/11. This is a great job,” she added. “There are a lot of qualified people who will raise their hand.”

Joyce Landry, CEO of corporate cruise specialists Landry & Kling/Seasite.com in Miami, said, "We are excited that she finds the cruise industry so attractive. This will shine a spotlight on cruising for the meetings and incentives market, and that's what we do. She has great qualifications, including proven advocacy work on Capitol Hill. That will certainly be beneficial for the cruise industry."

Landry also believes Duffy's career beginnings make her a good choice to lead CLIA. "Her early days selling cruises will give her a lot of empathy and understanding. She's paid her dues and made it to the C-level. She's a great role model."

As an entrepreneur and woman business owner, Landry is delighted to see CLIA hire its first female leader. "We've been in business for 28 years and we wait for moments like this. Women have done very well in this industry, but not so much in the inner circle. But [Duffy] has been there, she belongs there, and we are excited to see her there."

Duffy founded MPI's Women's Leadership Initiative, served as its inaugural chairwoman, and has been a frequent speaker on women's leadership.

"The cruise industry is extraordinarily fortunate to have Christine Duffy become the next president of CLIA,” said Howard S. Frank, vice chairman of the board and chief operating officer of Carnival Corporation & plc and chairman of CLIA's executive committee. “She has demonstrated exceptional ability to lead and is extremely well known and admired throughout the travel industry. I know I speak for all our member lines and travel agent partners in saying that we are very excited to usher in a new era for CLIA under Christine's direction."

Beginning on January 1, Maritz Travel Chief Operating Officer Jane Herod will serve as interim president of the company.