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COMMENTARY

Michele Paige

Michele M. Paige, FCCA

president, continuously

implements proactive,

innovative programmes and

strengthens ties between

cruise lines and destinations

The growth has only just begun

There are great prospects for the cruise industry

and for the Caribbean region, says Michele Paige

s president of the Florida-

Caribbean Cruise Association,

I might be slightly biased to

the Caribbean, but nobody

can deny its importance to

the cruise industry. The birthplace of

modern cruising from North America, the

Caribbean has grown up with the industry,

from about 8 million passenger arrivals 20

years ago to more than 20 million expected

from FCCA Member Lines this year.

Growing alongside the passenger arrivals were

billions of dollars in passenger and cruise line

spending, with passenger spending increasing

from approximately US$70.00 20 years ago to

US$96.00 in 2012; infrastructure, product and

destination development, from tours and ports

to entire cruising destinations, such as Falmouth,

Jamaica and Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic;

and job creation, from tour operators and taxi

drivers to shop owners and port workers.

How did the Caribbean evolve into such

a dominant cruise tourism market? Well, its

proximity to United States ports, longstanding

record of safety, friendly citizens and year-round

sunny weather certainly didn’t hurt. And where

else can a cruise passenger lounge on a beach;

dive into a waterfall; raft along a river; trek across

a desert; hike up a mountain or volcano; and

zipline through a forest – all in one trip?

The Caribbean offers not just all of these sites

and experiences, but also a unique assortment

of cultures and cuisines, as well as a history that

both incorporates these influences and creates a

completely individual identity. On that one trip,

a passenger can see Dutch architecture and taste

French fare on the same island and experience

the Spanish and British influences and history,

along with the Creole fusion of all of the above.

These features are crucial to cruisers, which

Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Future

Caribbean Cruise Travel Survey confirmed in its

findings that cruise passengers are more interested

in destinations than ships, particularly valuing

cultural heritage and culinary experiences.

However, cruise destinations and markets

now face global competition, with destinations

like China growing exponentially and the

Mediterranean predicting a record year. In

fact, even though the Caribbean again holds

the overwhelming lead in global deployment

capacity share with nearly 36%, this figure

decreased almost two per cent from last year,

whereas Asia increased more than 2%.

So how can the Caribbean continue to

grow with the cruise industry’s rapidly

expanding passenger capacity and ports of

call? The same CTO study says it well: “[the]

Caribbean’s ability to stimulate the required

demand will be directly dependent upon its

capacity to refresh and reinvent its tourism

economies by effectively adapting to the

ever-changing global environment, pushing

the envelope, taking risks and launching

innovations, which consistently deliver on

changing consumer expectations.”

And cruise lines call wherever there is

demand. This is why the FCCA works with

destinations to employ a similar business model

to the cruise lines – built on innovation and

differentiation, focused on offering constantly

new and refreshed products that align with a

brand to motivate new and past passengers not

just to cruise, but to experience a particular

product and stimulate demand of a variety of

cruisers, from first-timers to those who have

been there, but haven’t done that.

The FCCA helps Caribbean destinations

brand themselves in the same way, with their

unique history and offerings so passengers want

to not simply cruise the Caribbean, but sample

particular islands and products. Platinum

Membership with the FCCA comes with a

custom-tailored strategy to assist destinations’

private and public sectors by learning about

their individual issues and goals and then

utilising our knowledge of and contacts in

the industry to formulate an action plan that

optimises their cruise tourism impact.

These plans have helped destinations like

Martinique and Mazatlan, Mexico grow from

five-year FCCA Member Line passenger arrival

lows of 23,000 and zero to expecting more than

270,000 and 190,000, respectively, in 2015.

FCCA Platinum Membership also provides

direct access to some of the industry’s most

important figures – from Member Line

presidents and CEOs to executives who decide

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