Eastern Caribbean Destinations Join Cruise Industry to Show They Are Open and Building Better Than Ever
Eastern Caribbean destinations like Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and the U.S. Virgin Islands already welcome tens of thousands of cruise passengers per day after recovering from the tragic and unprecedented hurricane season, but they are looking to the future.
Yesterday (April 19) those destinations led a coalition also including the British Virgin Islands and Dominica to visit the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), the trade association representing the mutual interests between the cruise industry and destinations and stakeholders in the Caribbean and Latin America, to discuss best practices and lessons learned, prepare for the upcoming season and a sustainable future, and devise ways to improve and become even better than ever.
Government and private industry representatives from those destinations joined the monthly FCCA Operations Committee Meeting yesterday, where high-level executives from FCCA Member Lines-which operate about 200 vessels and 95 percent of the global ocean cruising capacity-gather to discuss operations and opportunities in the region.
“Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has been bringing cruise passengers to the Caribbean for over 50 years. Our belief in the region, and our commitment to its continued growth, is stronger today than it has ever been, so it was a delight to be able to meet today with government and tourism officials from throughout the Caribbean to work together on charting the best course forward for the Caribbean,” said Frank Del Rio, President & CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), who made an appearance at the meeting.
“I want to also extend my sincere thanks to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association for facilitating the meeting, and for their invaluable role in building relationships between the cruise line companies and the destinations in the Caribbean.”
Destination representatives included U.S. Virgin Islands’ Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty; St. Maarten’s Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Telecommunications and Transport, Hon. Cornelius de Weever; Dominica’s Minister of Tourism and Urban Renewal, Hon. Robert Tonge; British Virgin Islands’ Minister of Communications and Works, Hon. Mark Vanterpool; and Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s (PRTC) Chief Strategist, Ronald Castro.
They joined with FCCA Member Line executives including Howard Sherman, EVP, Onboard Revenue, Port & Destination Services & Casino Operations, NCLH; Steve Moeller, Vice President, Commercial Development, NCLH; Sandi Weir, Vice President, Destination Development & Government Relations, NCLH; Carlos Torres de Navarra, Vice President, Commercial Port Operations, Carnival Cruise Lines; Albino Supino di Lorenzo, Vice President, Operations, MSC Cruises USA; and Arnaldo Zanonato, Senior Manager, Port Adventures, Disney Cruise Line.
Nicholson-Doty credited the constant communications and updates with the FCCA and Member Lines to assisting with everything from relief supplies and evacuation efforts to navigating the road map to not only return cruise ship visits, but also ensure that every passenger would have something to enjoy and see that the USVI was still nice.
She told that the USVI people were crucial to that cause, as they rallied to ready the destination and were ecstatic to see their efforts come to fruition when welcoming guests again-and that they remain committed to delivering an exceptional experience.
Castro echoed the significance of the partnership with the industry and commitment from cruise executives, with some even visiting the destination immediately after the hurricanes to help get the port online to receive both cargo and cruise vessels. He told that in combination with the peoples’ and stakeholders’ tireless efforts and a well executed and transparent communications and marketing strategy led to an incredible recovery, with homeporting operations resuming only two and a half weeks after the disaster. And all agreed how vital that homeporting is for the region and that it adds more reasons and ways to work and grow together.
“We are committed to working with our FCCA partners and our neighboring destinations to continue positioning the Caribbean as the premier cruising destination in the world,” said Carla Campos, Acting Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
“The Government of Puerto Rico worked collaboratively to resume operations as quickly as possible recognizing our strategic role as an important hub for itineraries in the rest of the Caribbean, and we’re very much looking forward to what we anticipate will be a record-breaking 1.7M passengers for the 2018/2019.”
Port St. Maarten Officer Alex Gumbs also praised the FCCA and Member Lines for the relief efforts and the continual feedback, and he reiterated the importance of citizens’ efforts. He told St. Maarten quickly enacted a strategy to gather both the private and public sectors to meet with a former cruise line executive to prepare for cruise passengers’ return, especially in terms of messaging to deliver, and focus on the silver lining of the catastrophe by finding ways to enhance offerings and rebuild even better than ever.
To this end, he mentioned one of the best decisions was bringing a large delegation of stakeholders to participate in the 2017 FCCA Cruise Conference & Trade Show to discuss the progress and opportunities with the 100 FCCA Member Line executives in attendance.
These opportunities to improve took center stage at the meeting, with the destination representatives and cruise executives focusing on authentic experiences that tell the destinations’ stories while diving into numerous sites throughout the region with potential for retail, restaurants and things to see and do.
The destination representatives and cruise executives also discussed plans for both the upcoming hurricane season and the foreseeable future, including establishing a network of destinations to facilitate the transfer of necessary goods and creating a process to identify needs for individual destinations for both relief and an ongoing basis.
In all, the joint effort proved so proactive that the cruise executives suggested holding similar meetings every quarter with the FCCA Operations Committee, which would further the efforts of the regular events the FCCA hosts throughout the year to bring together cruise executives and destination stakeholders with the goal of developing mutual success.
One of those, the FCCA Cruise Conference & Trade Show, is expected to gather 1,000 stakeholders and 100 cruise executives for meetings, workshops and networking opportunities from November 5-9 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and it is open for registration at www.F-CCA.com/Conference.