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Published on : Tuesday, June 2, 2015
The first Seatrade Caribbean Cruise Forum came to a close last week at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, Tobago, with almost 150 delegates from all around the Caribbean attending the conference, for a series of high-level discussions and debates.
Led by senior cruise line executives and key industry figures, the Forum focused on cruise tourism opportunities for the region, port infrastructure, potential for new itineraries and Shorex development. The discussions addressed the importance of sustainability and eco-tourism, which provided an excellent opportunity for audience participation. One to one meetings were also on the agenda, as seven regional destinations were given the unique opportunity of exclusive meetings with leading European cruise lines.
Cruise line executives attending were provided with a tour of the host venue Tobago, gaining a deeper, more intimate knowledge of the region. For many of the executives, this provided a first-time look at the island. Michael Pawlus, director of strategic itinerary planning, Silversea, was impressed with the friendliness and diversity of the island.
Assemblyman Tracy Davidson-Celestine, deputy chief secretary Tobago House of Assembly and secretary Division of Tourism and Transportation is taking a lead role regionally in securing unity, cooperation, and collaboration to promote the benefits of Southern Caribbean cruising together with the Minister of Tourism of Barbados and other key regional leaders. ‘Tobago supports the development of the Sugar Point port project in Barbados as a means to create a strong southern Caribbean homeport that would benefit cruise destination Tobago and other Southern Caribbean destinations. Our team is working diligently to make Tobago a better cruise destination able to accommodate bigger ships with more cruise guests.’
Henry Yaniz, ceo of Newport Maritime was delighted with the success of the event which emulates Tobago’s success in the cruise industry – ‘Last season saw Tobago welcome more than 65,000 cruise passengers, with an 30% increase expected for the 2015/2016 season to nearly 100,000 cruise guests. As preparations are being made to welcome more cruise ships, including the larger ships, enhancements are being made at Scarborough’s 312mtr long pier to accommodate the increased numbers and 50 new tour buses will arrive in time for the next season, along with a proposed extension of the quayside, to provide a covered area for passengers going and returning on tours. The Tobago Division of Tourism & Transportation, together with the key stakeholders, is also launching a progressive training programme for tour guides.’
Despite competition from regions such as China, there was a distinct optimism throughout the entire Forum for the future development of cruising in the southern Caribbean; traditionally a region in the shadow of the more popular northern and western ports. Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, spoke of a time of challenge and opportunity for the Caribbean. Calling for better co-operation between the islands, Riley added that each must ensure their uniqueness is highlighted, stressing that ‘when you see one island, you only see one island and not the Caribbean as a whole’.