PORT ST. MAARTEN – As part of Port St. Maarten’s Post-Irma strategic business development and marketing approach, representatives from the port’s Cruise Business Unit traveled to Florida last week and have met with several cruise lines and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Operations Committee regarding the first cruise ship calls.
Port representatives provided a destination update about the recovery process post Irma; a state of affairs report of local stakeholders who provide services to the cruise sector; photos and video footage of the activities and experiences by cruise passengers from the first two cruise ship port calls which went extremely well and incident free.
The FCCA Operations Committee plans to travel to the country early 2018 to meet with stakeholders and continue discussions about the recovery of the destination. Port St. Maarten Cruise Business Unit will continue meeting with cruise line executives in January.
At the second meeting with the FCCA Operations Committee which took place on December 8, chaired by FCCA President Michele Paige, the committee members were very impressed with the progress shown and the immense efforts made by the population to get the destination ready for the first cruise ship calls. The Port St. Maarten presentation was well received by the Operations Committee ending with the conclusion that cruise lines are anxious to return to the island, and that the port has stepped up, and to continue to use the opportunity to reinvent the cruise product.
Port representatives also reiterated to the FCCA and cruise lines last week that the destination is open for business, and provided the latest information related to SXM Airport, public utilities (electricity and water), transportation, beaches, shopping, entertainment and culinary establishments, shore excursions and tours.
The FCCA was reassured about safety and security; there were also discussions about “The Caribbean is Open,” a multifaceted million-dollar campaign to inform travelers that the majority of Caribbean destinations are operating normally and ready to welcome cruise visitors.
Destination St. Maarten was the first to sign-up for the campaign at the 24th FCCA Cruise Conference & Trade Show that took place in Mexico in October. The discussions related to this issue were about how to formalize and give further content to the campaign from St. Maarten’s perspective.
Port St. Maarten already held discussions early November in Miami with FCCA President Michele Paige, Senior Vice President Adam Ceserano and Mico Cascais, former Chairman of the FCCA Shore Excursion Committee for the past 18 years, regarding a destination state of affairs at that point in time, end of October/early November.
“It is important that we maintain a close relationship with the FCCA and have regular consultations with the cruise organization to keep them appraise of our recovery process and how cruise passengers can rediscover the destination. They appreciated this approach especially after Irma, when the port’s primary focus was operational assessments related to the facilities and preparing the facilities to accept emergency and humanitarian relief aid from military and cargo vessels.
“Thereafter, Port St. Maarten Management met with several cruise partners to discuss the current state of affairs and how to move forward. This was then followed by our attendance to the FCCAs 24th Cruise Conference and Trade Show in Mexico. The FCCA officials said that St. Maarten will be assisted to return as a leading destination in the North-eastern Caribbean. As a destination, we also have the responsibility to continue to welcome our cruise passengers with a warm St. Maarten smile and to be courteous,” port representatives concluded.
Created in 1972, the FCCA is a not-for-profit trade organization composed of 18 Member Lines operating more than 100 vessels in Floridian, Caribbean and Latin waters.
The FCCA provides a forum for discussion on tourism development, ports, safety, security, and other cruise industry issue and builds bilateral relationships with destinations’ private and public sectors. By fostering an understanding of the cruise industry and its operating practices, the FCCA works with governments, ports and private sector representatives to maximize cruise passenger, crew and cruise line spending, as well as enhance the destination experience and increase the amount of cruise passengers returning as stay-over visitors.