Friday, 16 March 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua & Barbuda was recently represented at Cruise Shipping Miami by a team led by Tourism Minister John Maginley. The delegation held key meetings promoting cruise tourism in the twin-island destination.
A release said the annual event presents the country with a unique opportunity to display a wealth of information portraying the destination as a premier one for cruise tourism.
The business-to-business event, dubbed “the largest industry exposition of its kind,” attracts over 10,000 exhibitors each year, and gives cruise tourism officials a unique opportunity to remind the cruise industry that Antigua & Barbuda is a destination with a unique product perfectly suited to the modern cruise traveller.
The renewed focus on marketing the destination to the key industry decision makers is critical in light of the challenges being faced by the entire region which has seen a reduction in calls with the redeployment of ships from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean.
Along with Minister Maginley, the delegation included Miami-based Consul General Ambassador Ian Sweeney, CEO of the Antigua Tourism Authority Colin James, General Manager of the Antigua Pier Group Conrad Pole, Director of the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Marine Services Dwight Gardiner, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association Nathan Dundas, and other cruise tourism staff and stakeholders.
The delegation met with many of the leading executives for all major cruise lines, with an objective to increase calls to Antigua & Barbuda, especially in the slow summer months. Other items of discussion surrounded infrastructural and dredging plans to improve the facilities at the nation's cruise piers to accommodate the larger ships.
Holland American Cruise Lines announced to the Antigua delegation that it will increase calls to the destination for the 2012/2013 season from six to seven, while Seaborne will increase its calls over 100 percent, from 13 to 31.
Seaborne cruise executive Timothy Littley, who has responsibility for deployment and itinerary planning, indicated that "Antigua is a linchpin destination in their itinerary and the increase has been supported by high satisfaction scores of their up-market clientele."
In another joint meeting with executives from the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCL), it was revealed that visitor appeal ratings and customer satisfaction scores for Antigua and Barbuda had remained consistently high at 8.2 and 8.0, respectively, during the past year.
This is above the regional average of 7.8 for Royal Caribbean, whose lines include Celebrity and Azamara Cruises, which accounts for the largest percentage of cruise passengers visiting the country.
Royal Caribbean indicated that the results of the destination's lobbying effort to return ships to the region which had been redeployed to Europe was very encouraging, as the cruise liners were now beginning to re-evaluating this strategy.
The return of home porting services to San Juan, PR will also help the region's cruise industry, as it will once again allow for the destination's inclusion on the critical seven-day itinerary.
Paul Gauguin Cruises (PG Cruises) also announced to the delegation its plans to make inaugural calls to the destination in the upcoming cruise season. PG Cruises is a small, luxury liner rated by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the top five small cruise ships in the world.
“Antigua & Barbuda is fully committed to taking whatever decisions are necessary to bring ships to our destination during the critical summer months," Maginley said. "A key component of our cruise strategy is to further grow the business during the slow season, so that the economic impact is felt throughout the entire year."
Members of the delegation also met with Senior Vice President of Port and Destination Development for the Carnival Corporation Giora Israel to explore long-term strategic planning for port development and the possibility of including Antigua & Barbuda in its Southern Caribbean itinerary.
The discussion was very encouraging, and he expressed the Corporation’s desire to work with the destination, with whom “Carnival has an excellent relationship".
In an effort to market the positive attributes of the destination among the cruise executives, Antigua & Barbuda secured an exclusive inclusion with a four-page spread as the only Caribbean country featured in the special edition of the Seatrade Cruise Review magazine, produced especially for the event. This was included in the welcome bags distributed to all show attendees.
According to statistics, 606,485 cruise passengers visited Antigua & Barbuda in 2011, which represents a growth of nine percent over the previous year.