Cruise Lines Executives Impressed with Antigua and Barbuda
San Juan, Puerto Rico: Antigua & Barbuda has successfully presented its Master Plan for transforming its cruise tourism sector to top cruise executives and decision-makers at the recently concluded Annual Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Conference, held this year in Puerto Rico from September 26 – September 30.
In a series of high level one-on-one meetings, the Antigua & Barbuda delegation made power-point presentations showing the impressive improvements that are already on the way at Port St. John’s, Antigua. The presentations shared details of the already commenced construction, as well as plans to construct two additional berths to accommodate the largest ships currently in operation, and a passenger terminal to support home-porting. Additional dredging will also be made to the turning basin and the approach channel to the harbour. The delegation making the presentations was led by The Honourable Asot Michael, Minister of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy.
Future phases of the project include environmentally friendly landside public spaces and 130,000 square feet of retail space to accommodate high-end anchor brands shops, as well as a light railway tram to transport cruise passengers between the two transportation hubs at the northern and southern ends of the harbour. The entire architecture of the new landside facilities will be done in vintage Antiguan Colonial facades to bring back the charm and character of old St. John’s which is a major attraction for cruise passengers.
In the meeting with members of the influential FCCA Operations Committee, a presentation was also made promoting new fuel Bunkering services now being offered by the Government via WIOC and Shell, the leading oil company for fuel bunkering in the region. This first-of-its-kind offering in Antigua will allow cruise ships to easily take on fuel at any of the piers while they are at berth in Port St. John’s. The storage capacity of WIOC for 1.5 million barrels allows Antigua to now offer this bunkering service at very competitive prices to its cruise line partners. The cruise executives were extremely receptive to this announcement, particularly when they learned that Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas had already made use of the new fuel bunkering services. Team Antigua and Barbuda were complimented for delivering on a promise made just over a year ago to offer this added incentive for the cruise lines to call at Antigua and help the destination regain its former status as a key port of call on Caribbean cruise itineraries.
Minister Michael used the opportunity to leave this takeaway message with the cruise decision makers. He said “Antigua and Barbuda has made tremendous progress in just two short years in delivering on its promise to its cruise line partners and local industry stakeholders. We have delivered on our promise to dredge the harbour, to extend the Heritage Quay pier and to provide fuel bunkering as promised. We have clearly demonstrated that we are an action Government, that we understand and care about the cruise business and will do whatever is necessary to grow the sector for all our stakeholders and most importantly for improving the incomes of the people of Antigua and Barbuda”.
President and CEO Adam Goldstein at the end of the presentation to RCCL, when asked for his feedback on the progress that has made by Antigua, summed it up in three words, “I AM IMPRESSED”!
Royal Caribbean also confirmed that Antigua’s efforts have already yielded tangible results in that the ‘Anthem of the Seas’ will be making its inaugural call this December with 5,000 passengers as a direct result of the extension to the existing pier and completion of dredging works. Additionally for the season 2016/17 the destination will receive a total of 93 calls from RCCL up from 81 calls last season. This represents a 25,000 passenger increase in total passenger from 213,000 last season to 237,000 this season.
Other noteworthy increases in cruise calls for the future include Princess Cruise lines who confirmed that due to the planned improvements Antigua will be included in a new seven day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to begin in season 2018/19, which will be calling all year round.
Meetings were held with representatives from Carnival Cruise lines, MSC, Holland American, Princess Cruises, Seaborne, and the Royal Caribbean Cruise lines (RCCL) who are responsible for the Celebrity, and Azamara branded cruise lines. The itinerary planners for each cruise line partner were left with detailed copies of all the presentations made.
Included in Minister Michael’s delegation to FCCA, Puerto Rico, were Chairman of the St John’s Development Corporation (STJDC) Rohan Hector, and General Manager of WIOC, Gregory Georges. CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Colin James, and Nathan Dundas, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Association, also used the opportunity of this annual marketing conference to update cruise officials on safety and security measures and the new shore excursions available to enhance their guest experience. The delegation was accompanied by Mr. Ricky Skerritt, former St. Kitts Tourism Minister, who is advising the Honourable Asot Michael on matters related to the Government’s plans for growing the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism economy.
Representatives of several local tour operator companies, including Tropical Adventures and Rendezvous Tours, also travelled to Puerto Rico and used the FCCA Conference opportunity to negotiate and secure more business for their operations.
In keeping with the importance of the industry to all local stakeholder, the destination also for the first time assisted a local Cancer Care Charity group the Pinkback Program to attend the Conference, in their efforts to meet cruise line executive responsible for tours and excursions so as to make this charity available to cruise guests willing to donate to a worthy cause while on island.
The progress made to date in cruise tourism by combined efforts of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, The St. John’s Development Cooperation, The Ministry of Tourism and the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Association is impressive. The relentless lobbying and negotiating for new cruise calls coupled with the re-development of the port and landside facilities means that Antigua and Barbuda has regained the attention of the cruise industry leadership, and is well on the way to achieving ‘marquee’ destination status in keeping with the Government’s vision for the industry.