I decided to use the downturn in the travel industry during the 2020/2021 Covid 19 Pandemic as an opportunity for professional development.
At the beginning of the pandemic in February, March and April of 2020, I was very busy. There was a lot of worries and concerns, and I spent a good deal of my time helping my clients with cancellations and reschedules. Starting in June, however, new inquiries for travel slowed down and with most of the rescheduling already done, I had some free time that I normally don’t have.
I decided to invest in my self and my business and work toward some of my Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) Certifications. As a CruiseOne independent travel advisor, I had a full breadth of training from our many supplier hosted training and our annual two day intensive regional training sponsored by our CruiseOne/Dream Vacations headquarters. However, I had never completed any of the CLIA course work.
I had initially started the certification process back in 2012 when I first opened my agency. At that time, however, I lived in Arizona, which made it inconvenient for me to travel for required ship inspections.
Since that time, CLIA updated their ship inspection requirements to include Virtual Ship Inspection and personal experience cruises as ship inspections. This meant that I had already met most of the requirements for the Certified Cruise Counselor certification. This also meant that I just needed 80 Credit hours to complete the CCC. My previous supplier accreditation would count for the required elective credits which meant that with my previous training and experience, I could complete that CCC accreditation in less than a week.
However, I noticed that CLIA had just created a Fast Track option to Master Cruise Counselor. I read the requirements and realized that it was designed for someone just like me. I could skip the Accredited Cruise Counselor, and go right into working on my MCC through their Experiential Learning Program. The main difference between the ELP program and the standard program was that I could skip the ACC and I had to have over 100 cruise bookings to qualify and 100 CLIA training credits. The 100 cabins was not an issue as I easily book several hundred cruise reservations in a year. I was able to complete the training credits both through their virtual training classes and at the in person training a the July 2021 Cruise 360 event. The ELP path for the MCC also required 4 personal experience cruises on at least two different CLIA member cruise lines and 10 Virtual or Live Ship Inspections. I usually take 3 to 5 cruises myself in a year, so when they let me know that I could count personal cruises over the last 3 years as either Ship Inspections or Personal Cruises, I realized that I could complete the requirements over the course of the next year.
In July of 2021, I only had a few more steps to complete the certification, attendance at Cruise 360, the industry’s annual training and networking conference, one more personal cruise, my Family Cruise Certificate training through a live virtual training event, and one more live ship inspection. Attendance at the Cruise360 event was invaluable to me. Being in person in Florida allowed me to network with many executives of the cruise lines, learn more learn more about some of the luxury cruise lines and to share and resolve issues related to cancellations and re-bookings. The two days of learning classes not only helped me earn my 100 CLIA credits, but also got me thinking about different aspects of my business that I hadn’t thought of before.
After completing my last training requirement, a Family Cruise Certificate via a CLIA live webinar, I worked on finalizing and submitting my comprehensive essay.
This Essa was the most important part of demonstrating my professionalism to the training department at CLIA. I reflected on the 9 years that my agency has been in business and the aspects that have helped me achieve success. Having many of personal cruise experiences provides me with a broad knowledge base from which I an intuitively pull information to help with the client sales process. However, building relationships with clients and suppliers has been the most important aspect of growing my business from start-up to the top two percent of CruiseOne/Dream Vacations franchises. For my clients, they have learned to trust me as their personal advocate and the suppliers have confidence in my ability to resolve customer issues and bring back repeat business with large groups and service excellence, as well as bring on new customers with my outreach marketing. The value that I add to the cruise planning process focuses on the little things that help the guests maximize their experience and always making sure that they get the most value for the their well earned dollars spent on a vacation. All of those assets, experience, knowledge, relationship building and adding value are the skills that CLIA strives to build in the certification graduates.
In September 2021 I received word from CLIA that my MCC (ELP) was approved. I am very excited that I can now display this accreditation and new clients will know what my loyal, existing clients have know for years – I am a true travel professional who has the knowledge and experiences to help them have the best vacation possible.