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Ports & destinations

Antigua & Barbuda minister upbeat on cruise industry outlook

After three days of discussions and presentations to cruise industry decision-makers in South Florida, Antigua & Barbuda’s Minister of Tourism, Honourable Asot A. Michael is “very encouraged” about the future of his country’s cruise sector, the ministry said in a statement.

The Minister’s optimism follows his recent visit to South Florida (January 25 – 27) during which time he met with several cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, MSC, Holland America, Seaborn, and Princess Cruises. The Minister and his team also received valuable feedback from the Operations Committee of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).

In commenting on his meetings, Minister Michael said, “The cruise executives and itinerary planners were impressed with our vision for improving how Antigua will be welcoming their ships and passengers, and their feedback has helped us to better understand their specific needs for achieving sustainable growth. I am confident that we have developed the right masterplan, and it is now up to our Government to identify additional financing to complete what we started last year when we successfully implemented critically needed marine improvements at St. John’s Harbour and the Heritage Pier.”

In 2016, under the leadership of Minister Michael, the Antigua & Barbuda Government commenced an ambitious cruise facilities and downtown development program. To date, some $50 million has already been spent on the harbour and lengthening and strengthening the Heritage Pier to allow for the berthing of larger ships up to a Quantum-class size.

The arrival of Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas on 2 December 2016 heralded the start of what is expected to be a new growth phase for the Antiguan cruise sector. The Cruise-sector Masterplan calls for further dredging of the approach channel and turning area, the creation of a fifth berth, and land reclamation to help with major improvements to pedestrian and vehicle flows, town aesthetics, tour operations, and shopping.

Malta reports another record year

According to figures published last week by the National Statistics Office (NSO), 2016 was yet another record year for cruise passengers visiting Malta. A total of 682,222 passenger movements were recorded, meaning an increase of 2% on 2015. As per NSO statistics, which exclude embarking passengers, the 2016 landed passengers amounted to 626,082.

The Minister for Tourism Hon. Dr. Edward Zammit Lewis welcomed these positive figures for the local cruise sector. The Minister noted that according to a study commissioned by the Valletta Cruise Port, it is estimated that in 2015 the cruise industry contributed around €90 million through direct expenditure into the Maltese Economy. ‘’Moreover, the multiplier effect increases this contribution and creates even further economic benefits,’’ explained Minister Dr. Zammit Lewis.

Minister Zammit Lewis stated that the sister island of Gozo is also reaping extensive economic benefits from the success generated by the cruise sector. In 2016, according to figures produced by Transport Malta, 19 cruise port calls were registered in Gozo, and that carried nearly 7,000 passengers. ‘’This number of passengers is actually double that recorded in 2012,’’ continued the Minister for Tourism.

The Minister noted that Malta is strategically positioned in the middle of the Mediterranean and also enjoys a resilient level of security while this industry is serving as an important incentive for regeneration projects and investment particularly within the Grand Harbour region.

Minister Dr. Zammit Lewis affirmed that Government is committed to continue investing and working to maintain the cruise sector on the growth path in the short and long term through more infrastractural investment and further collaboration with the stakeholders in order to attract more cruise lines toward Malta and Gozo.

Economic revenue from cruising is not the only contribution that Malta benefits from this sector. Passengers spend a few hours on local shores and enjoy a minor taste of what the country has to offer, that is, a fantastic tourist destination and a natural choice for their holidays. Many passengers are charmed by our islands during their short visit and decide to return for a longer holiday. ‘’Cruising is serving as an exceptional and very effective showcase for our islands’’ explained the Minister for Tourism.

Valletta Cruise Port stated that 2016 was another very positive year with 42 cruise companies and 81 different cruise ships calling the port. Clearly, the cruise industry is growing year-on-year and is increasingly contributing towards Malta’s economic growth and prosperity.

During the year, Valletta Cruise Port, a subsidiary of the biggest cruise port operator worldwide, Global Ports Holding, was the recipient of two awards namely, the Best Terminal Operator by Cruise Insight and the award for Best Mediterranean Port & Destination by Cruise Excellence Awards. These awards reflect the company’s drive toward excellence and certify the efficient port infrastructure and outstanding service, including passenger flows, safety and security, besides the attractiveness of the destination itself.

Acquiring ‘Homeporting’ operations is key to the growth of this sector and there is intense competition within all Mediterranean cruise ports on this front. Government is committed to work relentlessly together with all stakeholders to attract more cruise lines that are interested in offering cruises that set sail and terminate at our harbour. ‘’Therefore, it was of great satisfaction that last year we secured our second regular homeporting operation for Malta, with the prestigious P&O Cruises' Oceana,’’ stated Minister Zammit Lewis.

During 2017, this cruise line is expected to make 27 port calls carrying over 100,000 passengers on a Fly and Cruise programme, together with another 5 port calls where another 10,000 passengers would be visiting Malta as a port of call. The Minister for Tourism stated that thanks to such new initiatives the cruisel sector in Malta is succesfully growing and our tourism industry, and economy at large, is benefitting both directly and indirectly.

‘’These results reflect the coordinated and collaborated drive amongst all stakeholders, particularly Valletta Cruise Port, to continue developing our product and promote Malta as a unique and effective destination for Mediterranean cruises,’’ concluded the Minister for Tourism Dr. Zammit Lewis.

Furthermore, the Malta Cruise Network Forum was also established bringing together in one forum all stakeholders to ensure that Malta delivers efficiently, reliably and flexibly to the cruise lines and their passengers, while ensuring alignment among all parties involved.

The forecasts for financial year 2017 raise the bar even higher, with a target of over 700,000 passenger movements through 330 port calls.

Stephen Xuereb, CEO of Valletta Cruise Port and COO of Global Ports Holding commented that, “The cruise industry is growing with more new ships being ordered in line with increased demand. Between 2016 and 2026 the total of new beds coming on-board exceeds 220,000 worldwide. Continuous timely investment in our infrastructure and our service delivery is paramount for us to remain competitive. A planning application for a €6m project to widen Quays 4/5 has been submitted. Plans are being finalised to redevelop the Old Power House to create further quayside cultural and entertainment, with additional check-in facilities. 2017 is also the run-up year to Valletta 2018, where Valletta will hold the title of the European Capital of Culture, with the calendar of events adding exciting layers to what the destination already offers.”

Tortola Pier Park strives to provide first class service to guests

Since opening the facility on February 16th, 2016 the Management team at Tortola Pier Park Ltd has set out to provide exceptional guests services, to further complement the new cruise and shopping facility. The customer centric experience includes enhanced service at every point of the guest’s interface, while traversing the facility. The experience begins with the warm welcome received through the Customer Service greeting center, it continues with the friendly shop keepers, and extends to the helpful staff and services providers.

As guests meander through the welcome center several local experiences are offered, including a taste of local BVI jams, jelly’s and sauces made of indigenous fruits and vegetables. Also, located right outside of the welcome building is a live demonstration of Glass blowing, where the artist creates unique pieces for visitors as they watch the captivating creativity of the talented artisan.

“This year (2016) has been our launching pad where we have strived to fine tune and enhance the guest experience for our valued visitors. The customer service team comprises of the Customer Service Manager, along with seven guest experience professionals whose core duties are to assist visitors, ensuring that their needs are met while at the facility. The entire team is trained and equipped with the skills needed to execute their duties at the highest level. As an added value three team members are bilingual and one team member is multilingual, allowing us to be able to provide services to guests no matter what their nationality. To further elevate our unmatched experience, we have live entertainment daily for our visitor’s enjoyment,” said Dona Regis, CEO at Tortola Pier Park Ltd.

Tortola Pier Park’s live entertainment is curated based on feedback gathered from visitors to the facility, which determines the genre of music and the frequency of the various acts.

To ensure a consistent high level of Customer Service is offered year round, the entire Tortola Pier Park team participates in regular customer service training, with the first training that was conducted, being in October, 2016, which all Managers, staff members, sales and service staff attended.

Indulge in the Tortola Pier Park's experience Monday through Saturday, 9am to 6pm and on Sundays and holidays when a cruise vessel is in port; with extended hours for restaurants and bars until 12am. The new shopping facility now has Sixty (60) stores operational and is expecting quite a few more stores to be opened in the first quarter of 2017.

Philippines moves forward with National Cruise Tourism Strategy

The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) is moving forward with the National Cruise Tourism Development Strategy completed earler this year with assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

 Ted Blamey, Principal of CHART Management Consultants was tapped by DOT and USAID to lead the team in undertaking an extensive field work, interviews, analysis, and direction-setting in 2015 to finalize the cruise strategy. Joining him were CHART’s Associates, Capt. Luigi Nappa, Rod Davies and Consultant Miles Griffiths

A series of workshops were conducted this month in Manila by CHART for the many stakeholders under the auspices of Philippine Department of Tourism. Two of the days were foused on Cruise Port Manila and the two primary transit ports, Boracay and Puerto Princesa, greatly assisted by Mark Ittel, VP of Bermello Ajamil, Miami-based experts in cruise port and terminal design and development.

To date, the Philippines with its more than 7,000 islands provides many excellent opportunities for cruise tourism. The Philippines offers rich diversity – from ancient Spanish heritage, culture and history through bustling metropolitan centers to pristine beaches and stunning scenery.

"We also boast of world-class shopping, dining, gaming, and perhaps the warmest welcomes on the planet,” said Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon, Jr. who heads the Cruise Tourism Development Committee for the Philippines. Another strength is the predominance of Philippine nationals serving on the world’s cruise fleet, bringing great credit to their homeland.

In 2016, the Philippines will have attracted just 72 cruise calls. But future growth in cruise tourism is guaranteed with strong support from the government and private sectors, a highly professional and experienced network of port agents and tour operators, plus growing awareness from major cruise lines of all the Philippine archipelago has to offer.

“As a key element of our strategy, we are determined to build new dedicated cruise facilities, most especially in Manila. A superior cruise port and terminal in the capital, with its extensive airlift and ground facilities, will create a compelling reason for large ships to spend time in the Philippines. Once here, they can achieve outstanding port density with efficient cruising speeds,” said Undersecretary Bengzon.

The Cruise Strategy also identified developments in the Turquoise Triangle linking the popular tourist destinations of Manila, Boracay, and Puerto Princesa in Palawan. The potential for new cruise destinations in the north of Luzon, where ships departing East Asian hubs can arrive after one day at sea, has likewise been pinpointed in the plan.

Icy Strait Point eyes record season in 2017

Icy Strait Point, Alaska’s only privately-owned cruise destination, welcomes three new lines for the 2017 cruise season: Disney Cruise Line visits Icy Strait Point for the first time, as does Carnival Cruise Line and Seabourn Cruise Line. The destination credits its new pier, opened to ships only last season, for helping to attract the new cruise visitors. These three lines bring the number of brands calling at Icy Strait Point to 11, including Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and Crystal Cruises – the greatest number of lines ever to call in a single season.

Seabourn, which in 2017 makes its first Alaska appearance in 15 years, calls 10 times at Icy Strait Point with the 450-passenger Seabourn Sojourn. Carnival makes its first-ever call at Icy Strait during a one-time, 14-day Alaska cruise roundtrip aboard the 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle, which departs from Long Beach, California, on September 2. Disney visits Icy Strait for the first time as part of a new nine-night cruise aboard the 1,754-passenger Disney Wonder, which sails roundtrip from Vancouver on July 24. Altogether, Icy Strait Point expects 154,843 total guests on 83 ship calls in 2017, the latter representing a record number of calls for the destination.

Written by M.T. Schwartzman