The Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) 9th annual cruise3sixty conference, which took place in Vancouver last month, solidified its reputation as the world’s most successful cruise-focused travel agent conference, according to a press release from CLIA.

Held for the second time at the Vancouver Convention Centre, cruise3sixty drew more than 1,950 total delegates including 1,250 registered agents from North America plus international representation, including a contingent of 40 from Australia.

According to CL;IA, the conference theme, “Taking Your Business to the Next Level,” was reinforced by a comprehensive series of educational seminars, three days of general sessions featuring industry leaders and special speakers, a two-day trade show with more than 250 exhibitors, 10 ships available for inspection and the CLIA Specialty Cruise Collection Showcase. Participants could choose from 20 CLIA professional development seminars, each of which earned them credits toward CLIA certification.

Christine Duffy, president and CEO, underscored the resiliency of the global cruise industry in her opening remarks, citing a 125 percent increase from 7.2 million passengers carried in 2000 to a projected 21 million passengers for 2013. Trends driving that growth, according to Duffy, include global itineraries, exotic ports of call, big brand entertainment, and innovation in product and onboard technology.

The globalization of cruising and the CLIA brand, with 12 associations operating under a unified structure around the world, also was highlighted by Duffy. “Consumers are becoming increasingly global – both in where they are from and in the breadth of what they want to experience. Because we are now global, CLIA member agents can look forward to sharing and learning best practices from fellow members around the world.”

Duffy announced seven new seminars debuting at cruise3sixty as well as the redesign of all 38 CLIA training courses to better reflect the type of training agents require and are looking for today.

Following Duffy’s address, American Express Travel released the details of a survey which found 85% of American Express’ polled travel representatives are experiencing strong cruise sales in 2013.

“The great news about this industry is there is a cruise experience for everyone -- from the launch of new ‘mega-ships’ to the increased popularity of river cruising,” said Tony Gonchar, vice president of American Express Travel’s Representative Network.

The cruise3sixty conference celebrates its 10th anniversary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, April 2-6, 2014, at the Broward County Convention Center.

American Express was cruise3sixty’s presenting sponsor at the conference, as it has been since 2005. Other gold level sponsors included Amadeus, Sabre, Tourism Vancouver, Port Metro Vancouver, Vancouver International Airport and Super Natural British Columbia.