Published On: Thu, May 8th, 2014

Cruise seminar speakers call for travel trade to grow Middle East sector

Cruise-Ship-VacationSpeaking at the Cruise Seminar in the Arabian Travel Market yesterday, leading cruise line representatives called for the regional travel trade to invest in personnel development to expand the outbound cruising market.

According to moderator, consultant Alan Le Coyte, worldwide passenger numbers were more than 21 million last year with over 400 ships sailing worldwide: “Asia, Australia and South America are among new destinations for cruising, as well as the Arabian Gulf, all of which add up to exciting potential for agents to increase sales … and earn more commission,” he said.

Regional sales & marketing director for Costa Cruises, Dario Rustico stressed that trade support remained crucial for the development of the industry: “Sales via the trade may not be 100 per cent any more but maybe 70 per cent comes through travel agents and they are still essential,” he said.

CEO of The Cruise Portfolio, Daniel Essex said online or face-to-face training was offered by most cruise lines and Royal Caribbean’s Helen Beck suggested agencies should consider investing in training cruise specialists to increase earnings – while cruise manager at dnata –Gulf Ventures, Jasem Zaiton, put the case for themed cruise centers to bring the cruise experience closer to the client.

“Agencies should consider engaging more Arabic speaking staff to promote to the local market,” he said, adding that greater exposure on social media, perhaps featuring local and regional celebrities on a cruise, would emphasis the benefits and experience of cruising as a vacation.

“Eighty-five per cent of GCC travelers stay in the region and this market could be targeted now that the trend to vacation in Lebanon and Egypt has changed due to instability in these countries.”

To support further growth in Gulf cruising, Costa is varying its itineraries next year to offer a ‘slow cruise’ option that will include overnight stays in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Muscat, said Costa’s Rustico, while Helen Beck suggested that in future the Chinese and Indian markets would look to the region as a cruise destination, raising the possibility of bringing in newer and bigger ships in response to increased demand.