Antigua & Barbuda continues to affirm its commitment to fast tracking improvements to the destination’s cruise tourism sector. This was the assurance given to cruise executives by tourism officials at the recently held Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Marketing Conference, in Philipsburg, St. Maarten from October 6th–10th 2014.
In a series of one-on-one meetings, and media interviews, the Antigua & Barbuda delegation, which was led by the Hon. Asot Michael, Minister of Tourism, Investment, Economic Development, and Energy, assured top cruise-line executives that the new Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party Government was committed to working assiduously on implementing its plans to expand the St. John’s Port facilities. Productive meetings were held with major cruise line partners such as Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise lines.
Minister Michael shared with the Cruise Executives, the Government’s redevelopment plans for the port as well as the new energy initiative, which will offer the cruise lines an opportunity to refuel their ships in Antigua and Barbuda. “We must look at all avenues to increase the likelihood that Antigua and Barbuda is a destination of choice on cruise line itineraries. This initiative, coupled with the redevelopment of the port and landside facilities, means that we will regain our marquee destination status in keeping with the Government’s vision for the industry” said Minister Michael.
Cruise-line executives confirmed that Antigua & Barbuda is still well positioned as a premier cruise destination within the Caribbean on many of the cruise line itineraries. However, cruise-line officials would like to see the local sector evolve and the promised improvements implemented, to enhance the destination’s cruise tourism product.
Other members of the delegation included chairman of the St. John’s Development Corporation (STDC) Rohan Hector, along with Executive Director Neil Butler and Deputy Chairman Senator Adrian Lee. The St. John’s Development Corporation Officials used the opportunity to dialogue with officials from the Port of St Maarten, and observe firsthand the operations and processes that have contributed to St Maarten’s success as the leading cruise destination in the region.
CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority Colin James and President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Association Nathan Dundas were also present to discuss marketing initiatives and update cruise officials on the new tours and excursions available to enhance their guest experience.
Additionally, Antigua & Barbuda thanked major cruise line partner, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) - through its Ocean Fund, for its recent joint funding of the destination’s participation, as one of the seven countries, in the Sustainable Destinations Alliance of the Americas initiative. The first phase of the initiative involved a detailed planning process driven by all local tourism sectors. RCCL was assured of Antigua and Barbuda’s commitment to continue the process, with the implementation and monitoring of the identified priority project areas. A total of 77 Ship calls from RCCL have been secured by the destination for the upcoming season.
Several local tour and excursion operators, such as Carib World Travel, Wadadli Animal Nature Park, D Boat, Tropical Adventures and Sea Escape, were present with the ABTA staff at the destination booth and used their attendance at the conference to negotiate and secure more business from the cruise line for their operations.
In keeping with the importance of the cruise industry to all local stakeholders, the executive leadership of the St John’s Taxi Association also attended the conference where they observed firsthand the transfer systems used by St Maarten. The Port of St. Maarten efficiently dispatches tens of thousands of passenger via different options on cruise ship days with a win-win outcome for all stakeholders.
In 2014, the international cruise industry’s forecasts 21.7 million passengers to cruise globally, with 11.9 million sourced from North America and 9.8 million comprised of international passengers. This represents an approximate 2% increase over 2013’s figures and is commensurate with the added capacity. There has been growth in all global cruise regions, but the industry’s success continues to be headlined by the Caribbean.
Antigua and Barbuda is forecasted to see a 15% in cruise arrivals for the 2014/15 winter season with over 700,000 cruise passengers visiting the destination.