Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Antigua & Barbuda can expect to see steady growth in its cruise ship visitor arrivals over the next two seasons. This was revealed at the recently concluded Seatrade Global Convention in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where one of the hottest topics was the unprecedented level of investment taking place globally over the next ten years and the need for local ports to modernize their facilities and improve the onshore experiences for cruise passengers.
In a series of one-on-one meetings at the World’s largest Cruise Industry Convention, the Antigua & Barbuda delegation engaged their cruise industry counterparts in negotiations and discussions about future plans. These discussions have confirmed that major public sector investments in St. John’s port, and overall tourism developments, are attracting significant attention within the cruise industry with positive results for Antigua & Barbuda.
The attendance at SeaTrade by a joint public and private sector team of local cruise stakeholders followed closely on a recent series of strategic sales visits by the Honorable Asot Michael, Minister of Tourism, Investment, Economic Development, and Energy, to the offices of senior cruise line executives in Florida. The Minister’s sales efforts have clearly now led directly to the country’s SeaTrade delegation returning home with good news of arrival increases.
Almost every cruise line that was engaged confirmed that Antigua and Barbuda would receive calls for the two next seasons at an average increase of approximately 10% which will be above the industry average predicted for the Caribbean region. The Lines expressed pleasure that all leading indicators point to the fact that Antigua and Barbuda is again a destination of choice as assessed by their passenger surveys. The recent extension of the Heritage Quay Pier to accommodate larger vessels, the availability of fuel bunkering services at competitive rates, the feedback of an improving experience by cruise passengers, and impressive investment plans for land-side developments, are all factors that are contributing to a resurgence in excitement about Antigua as a cruise destination.
Antigua & Barbuda came in for special praise from one of its larger cruise line partners, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Ltd. (RCCL) in the person of Federico Gonzalez-Denton, Associate Vice President-Government Relations for Latin America & The Caribbean, who commented that “Antigua and Barbuda was riding the wave of growth since the major improvements to the piers had been completed”. Total cruise ship calls from RCCL Lines will grow from 80 calls with 211,442 passengers in season 2016/17 to 91 ship calls already booked for 2017/18 cruise season with 233,878 passengers. This is a 10.6% increase of 22,436 more passengers that will visit the destination from RCCL alone. This can be even further increased if a proposed ship change takes place over the coming summer season.
Also showering high praise on Antigua was Viking Cruise Lines, the luxury European liner which only recently commenced calls to Antigua and Barbuda, who reported that its passengers had voted St. John’s as the best port in their new Caribbean itinerary.
MSC Cruise lines also confirmed an increase in its calls to Antigua with the total number of calls now booked from January 2017 to Dec 2019 showing significant growth. During the state of the Industry analysis Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, indicated the industry is set for record capacity growth. He noted that in the Caribbean demand is again heating up as some capacity is being pulled out of Europe due to various issues. "Our assets move, and we will follow the trends of where our customers want to go," said Vago. “With some 74 new ships on order from all cruise lines over the next ten years, Caribbean destinations must prepare for more and bigger ships, and cruise lines must keep an eye on the supply/demand scenario”.
Antigua and Barbuda is therefore now well placed to take advantage of this forecasted industry growth as a direct result of the Government’s timely investment decisions which have positioned cruise tourism firmly on the front burner. The destination is forecasted to ride this growth wave and see even more positive results in cruise ship passenger arrivals with the planned completion later this year of its 5th berth which will handle the largest cruise ships.
The Antigua & Barbuda SeaTrade delegation comprised of Government officials and members from the private sector including local Cruise Agents and Executives from the St. Johns Taxi Association. The Country’s vibrant destination booth was a hub of activity as the private sector took advantage of the public private sector partnership opportunity afforded them to join the Exhibitor experience and secure more cruise line business for their respective companies.