Wednesday, 12 October 2011 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St John's - The last three weeks has seen cruise tourism officials closing off deals with cruise line executives to secure a solid cruise calendar for 2011/12 and beyond.
Cruise calls are set to increase by approximately 10 percent, with 364 calls already scheduled for the upcoming season.
At the end of September a delegation led by Consul General in Miami Ian Sweeney, met with the Operations Committee of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA). This group which meets each month, comprises executives of all the major cruise lines and they are tasked with devising strategies and plans for the cruise industry.
The delegation from Antigua & Barbuda included key stakeholders in the industry, General Manager of the Antigua Pier Group Conrad Pole, President of the Antigua & Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association Nathan Dundas, and CEO of the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority Colin C James.
The meeting, chaired by Michele Paige, president of the FCCA was called to discuss a new “stimulus package,” which was presented to the major cruise lines in a bid to secure more cruise calls for the destination.
The stimulus package which was approved by Cabinet in June offers incentives that will take effect in time for the upcoming 2011/12 season. It includes incentives in relation to the passenger head tax being charged and also makes special provisions to attract cruise calls to Barbuda. The projected economic spin off from this package is expected to be significant. Including Barbuda as part of the stimulus package provides much needed exposure for the sister isle.
The presentation was enthusiastically received by all of the major cruise lines, many of whom requested that the incentives remain in place for a longer time period to facilitate future itinerary planning.
“We are very encouraged by the feedback from the executives. Last year, we saw a noticeable shift by the cruise lines away from the Caribbean to Europe as they redirected a large portion of their summer business. The entire Caribbean has lost market share as a result of this move. This meeting was arranged to present tangible incentives for the cruise lines and position Antigua & Barbuda as a competitive port of call,” said Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation & Culture John Maginley.
The delegation from Antigua & Barbuda then travelled to Europe to present the stimulus package to cruise line executives at Seatrade Europe; the largest cruise trade show in Europe. The Mediterranean attracts a considerable amount of business from U.S. cruise lines however the Caribbean is still the number one destination for European cruise passengers in the winter season.
Maria Blackman of the ABTA office in the UK joined the delegation at the trade show in Hamburg, Germany. The show provided an opportunity for face-to-face meetings with the key decision-makers for European cruise lines. Meetings were held with Thomson (UK), Tui, Costa, Kristina and Windstar Cruises. Once again the incentives were well received by the cruise lines.
“All of the cruise executives that we met with were very excited about the stimulus package," said General Manager of the Antigua Pier Group Conrad Pole.
"They also indicated that general passenger feedback on the destination has been very positive. In particular, the destination was commended for the variety of tours available, the friendliness of the people, the fact that ships are able to dock in the heart of St John’s city and the general appeal of the destination.
All the major cruise lines indicated that they are eagerly anticipating the new season. The destination can look forward to an increase in cruise calls from Europe."
This season, Katarina; a ship from Kristina Cruise Lines, will make its inaugural visit to Antigua & Barbuda. Antigua will be the first port of call on the ship’s itinerary. The Finnish cruise vessel will make approximately 7 calls to the destination. Plans are already underway to organise an exciting inauguration ceremony. Reports indicate that this will be a very lucrative source market.
Costa Luminoso, a ship from Costa Cruise Lines, will also make its inaugural visit to Antigua & Barbuda. The additional business comes following an impromptu visit earlier in the year by Maurice Zurmati, President & CEO of Costa Cruise Lines.
“We learned that Mr Zurmati would be arriving into Antigua onboard a Costa cruise and that he would be leaving the ship to fly back to Miami. We decided to take advantage of the situation and entertain Mr Zurmati during the five hours that he was in-transit. He was treated to our warm Antigua/Barbudan hospitality. He had lunch and an island tour and gained an excellent feel for what the destination has to offer cruise passengers. Our efforts seem to have paid off,” said Colin C James, CEO, ABTA. This will bring the number of calls from Costa Cruise Lines to three.
Looking ahead to 2012/13 season, MSC Fantasia; The newest ship of the fastest growing European cruise line has selected Antigua & Barbuda to be included in it’s itinerary. This ship is lauded for it’s elegant Italian design boasting for the first time on a cruise ship a Swarovski crystal staircase.
The delegation closed off this round of meetings with the FCCA Cruise Conference & Trade Show held in Puerto Rico. “This show is crucial for demonstrating support for the US based cruise lines. We were present alongside Barbados, St Martin, Jamaica and the US Virgin Islands. It was a good opportunity to follow up on discussions that were initiated in Miami.” Said Nathan Dundas, President, Antigua & Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association.
The delegation met with cruise executives from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess and Holland America Cruise Lines. The conference also included presentations by the Cruise Executives and other key industry players on the State of the Industry, marketing trends and port developments.
Antigua & Barbuda was well represented by both public and private sector partners including the Pier Group, the Tourism Authority, the Cruise Tourism Authority, the Merchants Association and individual tour operators.