Cruise

“The greatest challenge is the flow of visitors”: CLIA CEO Cindy D’Aoust talks overtourism

Ali Coulton

CEO of CLIA Global, Cindy D’Aoust hit Aussie shores to speak at Cruise 360 Australasia.

Lucky for us, D’Aoust landed in Sydney a little early, so we caught up with her to have a chat about one of the key topics the conference will be tackling this year: reputation management.

D’Aoust told Travel Weekly that reputation is an issue that affects the entire travel industry, not just cruise.

“We’re experiencing a global travel boom and we believe that will continue. In 2o18 we’re going to see 28 million ocean cruise passengers,” she said.

“That’s significant growth and other areas of tourism are experiencing the same thing.

“People have more discretionary income, they’re interested in gaining experiences, and they want to experience unique destinations.

“So because of that, I think what we’re seeing is a greater need to manage tourism so that it is a great experience for the people that live in the destinations as well as for the people that visit.”

D’Aoust said the cruise industry’s role in all of this is to make sure they are acting responsibly in all they do.

Whether it is ensuring from an environmental perspective that we’re acting as responsible stewards, to working with other tourism leaders to help ensure the destination is sustainable in its infrastructure, but also the culture and the heritage,” D’Aoust told us.

But this isn’t something the cruise industry owns single-handedly.

“It is also better planning from local governments, investing in infrastructure, working with tour buses and tour operators to have a broader choice of tourism activities to manage the flow of the visitors.

“Everyone has a part to play and a seat at the table to ensure that we’re going to go forward. Because the answer isn’t really having less visitors, its how to accommodate more visitors.

For us, it’s really using a framework that says we go into every destination empathetic and listening to what their priorities are and working out how we can all come around the table to design solutions.”

The best example of how this works in action can be found in Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik tourists at Onofrio's Fountain

As you may be aware, Dubrovnik is facing an overtourism problem with some reports indicating visitors are outnumbering locals during peak periods.

Last September, the city was looking at stripping back cruise allowances to help lighten the load.

“We reached out to [the mayor] and said we want to be part of the solution, but before we say ‘lets cap visitors’ let’s understand what the challenges actually are,” D’Aoust said. 

It turned out the greatest challenge is the flow of visitors.

“What we recognised is we need to work together to provide more activities for people so they’re not all just going to the old city and making sure that the busses departure schedules were staggered so everybody isn’t coming and going all at once. But that’s just the first step.”

According to D’Aoust, travel agents also have a big role to play.

“Our most important goal is to make sure that our community knows what the cruise lines are doing, can speak factually to the consumers, and know enough about the destinations,” she said. 

There are opportunities for travel agents to talk with consumers about visiting destinations during the offseason, choosing activities that put money back into local communities and making sure they know enough about the local culture.

“It’s about making sure that the travel agents are really knowledgeable about what we have to offer and their role in educating the consumers.

“The filter we use to measure our success is this: Are we leaving destinations better than we found them?” she concluded.

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