Creating one voice for a global cruise industry

Kelly Craighead has hit the ground running since taking the helm of Cruise Lines International Association in January 2019. She shares her key priorities with Rebecca Gibson

Creating one voice for a global cruise industry
Cities like New York reap multiple socio-economic benefits from a united cruise global industry

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

How have you settled into your new role at Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)?
I am honoured to have been selected as president and CEO of CLIA, and to have the opportunity to leverage both my professional background in tourism and my personal passion for travel.

How did your previous experience in the US travel and tourism industry help to prepare you for taking the helm of the world’s biggest cruise association?
I have more than 15 years of diverse experiences in the public and private sectors, all of which will be helpful in my role as head of CLIA. For example, when I was deputy assistant secretary for travel and tourism at the US Department of Commerce, I led US initiatives to advance travel and tourism priorities around the world and to increase the industry’s contributions to the US economy. I worked tirelessly on these initiatives, helping to generate more than US$250 billion annually from international visitors to the US. I bring this same passion and persistence to the cruise industry.

In addition, I’ve built a strong reputation for creating collaborative relationships with government tourism ministers and other key travel and tourism stakeholders to address challenges and issues around the world. This approach, and my experiences in these areas, give me a unique perspective on CLIA’s work and its ability to advance the cruise industry’s interests and contributions.

What are your immediate key priorities for the next few months and why?
CLIA’s cruise line members individually and collectively contribute significantly to economies around the world. In fact, the cruise industry supports more than 1.1 million jobs that provide US$45.6 billion in wages and salaries and US$134 billion total output worldwide.

Equally important – and what is surprising for some people – is that the cruise industry is also an innovator and a leader when it comes to driving responsible tourism. For example, our sector is well on its way to achieving its goal of reducing its fleetwide rate of carbon dioxide emissions by 40% by 2030. In addition, 93% of the cruise industry has eliminated plastic drinking straws (or only provides them when requested by guests), while many have committed to dramatically reducing or eliminating other single-use plastics.

One of my main focus areas is to increase public awareness of the cruise industry’s positive impact on the economy and the collective strength and commitment of our members’ sustainable tourism initiatives. We’ll accomplish this through advocacy, education, and promotional efforts. Our three key strategies are to: increase our engagement with stakeholders; leverage the knowledge we’ve gained and the best practices we’ve established to further our positive contributions to more seaport communities; and improve the efficiency and effectiveness in how we work.

Can you share any of your long-term goals for CLIA and explain how they build on the organisation’s existing strategies and initiatives?
The cruise industry is an innovator when it comes to developing responsible tourism initiatives. Our long-term goal is to advance these efforts by implementing best practices in seaports throughout the world. That will require us to build trusted relationships with a wider range of people and organisations and to take a customised approach at each port. 

At first glance, it may appear that the various groups who have a vested interest in the oceans, waterways and ports all have different goals and objectives. But I believe that by working together, we’ll find the important centre of gravity that balances the positive contributions cruise tourism provides to local and national economies with the importance of protecting the integrity and cultural heritage of the destinations that cruise passengers visit. It’s essential that we work together the address the issues that are affecting both the cruise industry and the wider travel and tourism sector with a strong, coherent and united industry voice.

How are you working with CLIA’s members to better understand their needs and help them grow the cruise industry worldwide?
The key to unlocking the value in our members’ feedback is to truly listen. Immediately after assuming my role at CLIA, I began travelling to our global offices to meet with, and learn from, our talented leaders and members. My team and I will continue to incorporate members’ feedback into our ongoing strategic approach to ensure we create the best member experience and the strongest organisation possible. To that end, we’re putting together a strong stakeholder outreach strategy that will support our desire – and need – to engage with as many people and organisations as we can. This will help us to tell the story of CLIA’s contributions to the economy and society, as well as to find solutions and implement best practices that further support our commitments in these areas.

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
04 October 2019

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