On behalf of the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunications the Honorable Ernest Sams, Mr. Denicio Richardson, Traffic and Telecommunications Advisor, attended the 22nd Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Conference, which was held in Cozumel, Mexico. The conference was held from Monday, 4th to Friday the 9th October.
The conference was attended by wide range of participants, covering the Caribbean and Central America, including the southern USA. During the conference a number of one on one meeting were held as well as roundtable sessions, to discuss the bigger and pressing issues, we are being faced with and affecting the Cruise industry regionally and globally, identifying the potential threats and opportunities. Key developments worth noting, is that of security and safety, which are key to keeping any destination an attractive option, and equally important is the experience that the destination can offer that would make its passengers wanting to come back and experience again and again.
Clearly and evident St. Maarten is a beacon of the region for the industry, with what it has been able to achieve to date and when measured using key performance indicators (KPIs). St. Maarten stands on top in the region in most of KPIs, and is looked up to by many. The harbor group in its press release has already indicated such and shared some numbers.
As a nation we have come far in this perspective over the years, thanks to the developments of one of our ports of entry, namely the Harbor. Despite this we are facing and so is the region increasing pressure and competition for our ships of the region, especially the larger newer ships, from the Chinese and Asian markets. Ships are being relocated to tap into the exponential fast growth that is taken place in that part of the world, as the production of ships will take some time to catch up and balance out to meet all the needs across the globe. What does this mean for the Caribbean and St. Maarten? It does not mean all is lost or will be, as a matter of fact with Cuba coming more and more on stream this will help to boost the attractiveness for the region, and helping to boost the yields and average spend of persons visiting our shores further. Also to date only 20% of the American population has taken a cruise, offering a great potential for continued demand to our region, and the Chinese as more and more get use to Cruises, will look to travel further and further away from home, bringing them to our shores. Key is for Government and industry players, to start preparing for the coming of the Chinese. Europe is another up and coming market to our region and shores, especially the German market. The harbor has already started to prepare for this by placing someone that can speak mandarin and German at its ports, and this development needs to be further spread into the different service sectors.
With such said, what is clear is that the market dynamics are changing, a number of new ports are opening up in the region offering more choices for ships to cruise to in the region, further enhancing the experience, but as a region we will have to seek working more together, to ensure the overall product is up to par, and understanding that as combined product we will be able to offer something that cannot be easily copied or experienced any other part of the world, as other parties and regions are competing for the business. The key buzz words during the conference were safety and security as well as the experience. The experience needs to be such that is different, unique and keep people coming back. St. Maarten already has one such being the end of the runway experience that is far becoming a popular and sought out activity by the guest coming to our shores that is unique. We need to seek to find and develop others. Government has taken note of these developments, and in its role of establishing policy will take this all into consideration.
The next conference will be held next year in Puerto Rico, and the chairperson of FCCA, Mrs. Michel Page, has already made a pitch at St. Maarten to be the host their after, as they were very happy and impressed with how St. Maarten hosted the event, which broke records, and kept persons talking about the experience beyond including even during this year’s conference. Persons could not stop speaking about their experience in St. Maarten. This was welcoming news, and the Ministry hereby acknowledges and thanks the Harbor group of companies, its leadership and staff, for a job well done and we as a people need to feel proud of what we are able to do on such a grand scale.