Recognizing that we are all operating in a challenging economic environment, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has geared up to help its 16,000 travel agent members accelerate sales in the months to come. Training and certification programs across the country – 85 in-market training events in the first quarter of 2009 alone – plus dynamic preferred partnerships have been developed to enable agents to take advantage of every opportunity to generate business while spending less to do so. CLIA agents report that training and certification help generate an average increase in sales of 261 percent.

“CLIA is totally committed to helping our agents prosper during these tough times. One way of doing that is through aggressive training that has been proven to be highly successful. But we are also taking every opportunity to provide exclusive partnerships and other programs designed to increase sales cost-effectively,” said Bob Sharak, executive vice president of marketing and distribution for CLIA.

Included in CLIA’s first quarter training is a three-hour seminar entitled “Who Are You? An Exploration of Your Abilities, Skills and Strengths” that will be given throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, CLIA offers extensive online training opportunities and a full program of educational seminars and workshops at cruise3sixty, the cruise industry’s largest annual conference being held in Fort Lauderdale, April 2-5.

In 2008, CLIA delivered nearly 65,000 total training events to travel agents from the US and Canada across a diverse spectrum of training media, including local classroom instruction in hundreds of cities across North America, online courses, DVD training, Seminars at Sea, and CLIA sales instruction delivered at industry conferences and events.

Planning for the future, CLIA agents are stepping up and investing in continued education and professional development. In the second half of 2008, nearly 3,400 agents enrolled in CLIA’s Cruise Counsellor Certification program, an increase of over 100 percent as compared to 2007.

And, agents of CLIA member travel agencies are responding to the value and benefits of CLIA’s individual travel agent membership category. CLIA individual travel agent membership bundles a suite of included CLIA training opportunities and agents are recognizing that the membership facilitates a “Fast-Track” to CLIA Certification. 2009 agent memberships are pacing 100 percent higher through January and CLIA anticipates 2,500 agent memberships in 2009.

CLIA has teamed with several Preferred Partners to offer travel agents exclusive benefits and opportunities to boost sales and save on costs. MarketEaseOnline™ (MEO), for example, provides a new suite of electronic marketing tools, including free customized “WhereToCruiseNext” emails delivered to a growing database of cruise consumers. The emails will offer cruise promotions from only CLIA member lines, with the call to action directly back to the recipient’s participating CLIA member agency. MEO also includes email tools for agents to create and send their own cruise email campaigns.

Through this new arrangement, CLIA and MEO will enable agents to create agency-branded cruise email campaigns, delivered on behalf of the agency directly to the client. Delivery of the emails will be a seamless process handled by ITAMS. Content and Websites for customized email campaigns will be provided through the VacationPort product of Passport Online Inc. A link to a suite of email tools is available to all CLIA member agencies at the Travel Agent Center section of CLIA’s Website,

Another Preferred Partner is Tripology, the leading interactive travel referral service that helps agents to maximize leads to access new clients and garner new cruise bookings. As one of CLIA’s Executive Partners, Tripology also will be a Contributing Sponsor at cruise3sixty. By connecting travel specialists to consumers who are seeking their expert knowledge and travel planning experience, it enables agents to harness the immense reach of the Web, then work one-on-one offering the personal attention and service travelers seek.

A third Preferred Partner available to help agents earn more while spending less is .Travel, an ICANN authorized domain provider which, in effect, can provide agents with a “.travel” domain name that is unique to the travel industry. Because CLIA and its members are considered to be “pre-categorized” for this domain, the association has been recognized as an Authenticator, which expedites the process for any agency that would like to acquire a .travel web address.