It’s been about a year and a half since Christine Duffy left her job as president of Maritz Travel Co. and took the reins of world’s largest cruise association. After helping the meetings and incentives industry through the cancellation crisis of 2008 and 2009 as a fervent champion of the face-to-face experience, her new role as president of the Cruise Lines International Association has also put her in the spotlight. Following high-profile accidents that have drawn attention to emergency preparedness on the seas, Duffy is at the forefront of helping the cruise industry improve and move forward.
Corporate Meetings & Incentives: Can you sum up the new safety policies announced by CLIA and the European Cruise Council in the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster?
Christine Duffy: In January 2012, CLIA launched the Operational Safety Review, a comprehensive assessment of the critical human factors and operational aspects of maritime safety. This review is being conducted by a task force made up of our cruise line members’ technical staffs and a panel of independent industry experts, including Mark Rosenker, former chairman of the United States National Transportation Safety Board; Stephen Meyer, retired admiral of the Royal Navy and former head of the United Kingdom Marine Accident Investigation Branch; Dr. Jack Spencer, former chief, Office of Marine Safety, NTSB; and Willem de Ruiter, former head of the European Maritime Safety Agency.
As a result, we have announced a number of new safety policies that exceed current international regulations. These include holding the emergency drill prior to departure, having the number of life jackets onboard exceed the number of passengers, and a new Nationality of Passengers policy, which prescribes that the nationality of each passenger on board is to be recorded and readily available to search-and-rescue personnel as appropriate. In addition, CLIA member cruise lines have specified 12 common elements that will be communicated to passengers in musters and emergency instructions. Among those common elements are a description of key safety systems and features and an explanation of emergency routing systems.
CMI: How has the transition been from the meetings industry to the cruise industry? Are there lessons from the meetings industry you’re adapting to the cruise market?
Duffy: The transition has been a good one. I’ve been able to bring the planner’s perspective from the meeting and incentive travel market to the cruise lines and establish relationships and connections to industry associations like Meeting Professionals International. Through the MPI Foundation, which CLIA is supporting, we have been able to conduct focus groups and provide educational sessions, and we will be opening our ships to MPI chapters to host one of their monthly meetings on board a CLIA member ship in 2013. In my previous role at Maritz Travel Co., we chartered quite a few cruise ships for incentive programs and those were always highly rated.
A big part of my role at CLIA is representing the cruise industry in Washington, D.C., and to governments and regulators around the world. I am seeing firsthand how important it is for any industry to maintain a consistent presence and relationships with local, national, and international policymakers. While the meetings industry has made great strides in this area since 2008, I believe there is an opportunity to do more.
CMI: Are there cruise industry trends that meeting professionals should be aware of, but probably aren’t?
Duffy: The strongest trend in the cruise industry, aside from new ships, has been the globalization of cruise line operations. More than one-quarter of passengers sailing on CLIA-member lines are now foreign-sourced because the cruise lines have made major investments in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South America, and elsewhere. For North Americans traveling for meetings and incentive programs, this means the choice of cruising anywhere in the world. This is especially important for those planners who are bringing people together from around the globe. A shipboard meeting or incentive program with global attendees and an international itinerary is as easy to plan as a domestic program.
CMI: Any others?
Duffy: One fact that is probably still overlooked is that many cruise lines are already poised for corporate meeting and incentive business, offering improved technology, onboard Wi-Fi, and modernized conference rooms. The cruise lines have made significant investments in an impressive choice of shipboard activities and amenities, notably new dining experiences, with an increased focus on local and sustainable products.
In April 2012, Amadeus and CLIA conducted a survey on the future of business meetings and incentive travel programs on cruise ships. According to the study, this segment is a promising growth area, especially as corporate travel and meeting budgets show recovery and the unique attributes of cruising become better known.