Cruise destinations must differentiate to retain business

The Caribbean loses out on revenue if it presents itself as a single destination to cruise passengers. 

That’s the message from Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association President Michele Paige, who spoke to the Caymanian Compass in the aftermath of the association’s annual conference and trade show, which was held this year in Curacao. 

“The cruise industry does not believe in generic marketing [because that runs the risk that] in North Americans’ minds if you have been to one destination, you have been to them all and it is all vanilla, all the same. A cold weather vacation. The Caribbean needs to establish a firm foothold in making sure the consumer knows the culture, the history, things to do all year round. That it is a family vacation. 

“We underline that you need to have a product, you need to communicate what that product is and you need to be able to analyse what you represent. You have to revitalise your private sector and there has to be a tremendous Wow Factor put back into each destination and what they are,” Ms Paige said. 

She gave the example of St Martin/Sant Maarten, the Leeward island which is half French and half Dutch. There, significant infrastructure is in place including cruise berthing, a promenade and efficient transportation options, all of which are integral to giving cruise passengers an excellent experience on land. 

“You can’t have tours if you cannot move them. It is about tours, product, shopping, and catering not just to the consumer but crew and ensuring that there is something there for everybody,” she noted. 


It’s all about profit  

One of the perennial issues for the Caribbean cruise industry is the slower summer months, when cruise ships are repositioned to other parts of the world which affects seasonal income for destinations. 

“You have to understand that overall we take people to where they want to go. We are in business to make a profit and unfortunately the perception of the public is that the Caribbean is only a cold-weather destination [in the source markets] for vacations. 

“It costs a lot of money to reposition a ship to Alaska, to Europe, to Australia but obviously we are able to make more money on per diems and revenue by moving the ship. We want to stay, trust me – we are into most gratification at least cost but people are prepared to spend three times more on other destinations, so that is where we are going to go,” Ms Paige said. 

Looking forward, the association chief said that it had put forward suggestions about how destinations should be curtailing cost or making it more attractive to the industry or consumers and looking at their product. 

“Also [we have underlined] the big picture, which has to be shore excursions sold on board. It is all part of the picture. In the Caribbean, if only 35 per cent of our passengers go on organised tours and it is 55 to 60 per cent in Europe that is a huge part of our revenue and this is what we are dealing with. 

“[We are] working with destinations to underline these various points which need to be addressed. It used to be that the taxi drivers would say they are not making enough money. Well, if the cruise lines are not making enough money we move the ships. That is something that we all have to come to grips with – how do we make sure that we are all making a living.” 

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