FCCA flags partnership at this year's Puerto Rico convention

Puerto Rico will host the annual FCCA conference for four years running Puerto Rico will host the annual FCCA conference for four years running PHOTO: Puerto Rico Tourism Co.

The 25th Annual Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Conference & Trade Show is particularly significant in that it's hosted by Puerto Rico just one year after the devastating hurricanes, and a number of new elements are planned.

Also, there will be greater participation by high-level government officials from across the region than ever before, according to FCCA president Michele Paige. A number of heads of state are confirmed, along with ministers and leaders of major cruise corporations.

The event is set for Nov. 5-9 at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan. Following the storms, the FCCA gave Puerto Rico an opportunity to pass on hosting.

Ready, willing and eager

'They came back and said it's more important than ever,' Paige related. 'It's full steam ahead for the conferences the next four years.'

'We are excited about hosting,' said Carla Campos, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. 'We're beyond excited to be hosting for four years.'

She noted Puerto Rico was at the 'forefront of the cruise industry's quick recovery and resurgence,' taking ships shortly after the storms. 'The destination is ready. The hotels are ready. We're expecting a great high season.'

Because FCCA conference and trade show will stay put several years running, there's a strong effort to make the content relevant to all destinations, Paige said, with more opportunities for participation and sponsorship.

She credited St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet who, as chairman of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, championed greater regional cooperation following last year's devastating hurricanes, for propelling the FCCA and its destination partners to a stronger level of communication.

'We are family,' as Paige put it, 'and we need to work together.'

Keynoter Pierfrancesco Vago

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is scheduled to address the opening conference ceremony on Nov. 5, and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz will be on hand. Attending the event for the first time, Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman, MSC Cruises, will deliver the keynote address, and Chastanet will give a partnership address. FCCA chairman Adam Goldstein, vice chairman, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., will also take the stage.

Further cruise line leaders planning to attend are Arnold Donald, president and CEO, Carnival Corp. & plc; Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.; and Rick Sasso, chairman, MSC Cruises USA. Among the expected brand leaders are Christine Duffy, president, Carnival Cruise Line; Orlando Ashford, president, Holland America Line; and Jason Montague, president and CEO, Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Heads of state

Confirmed regional leaders include Alden McLaughlin, premier and minister, human resources & community affairs, Cayman Islands; Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Orlando Smith, premier & minister for tourism, British Virgin Islands; Jack Guy Lafontant, prime minister, Haiti; and Roosevelt Skerrit, prime minister and minister for finance, Dominica.

Other confirmed leaders are Ralph Higgs, minister of tourism, Turks and Caicos Islands; Mark Vanterpool, minister of communications & works, British Virgin Islands; Charles Fernandez, minister of tourism, investment & energy, Antigua and Barbuda; Manuel Heredia Jr., minister of tourism, culture & civil aviation, Belize; Moses Kirkconnell, deputy premier and minister of tourism, Cayman Islands; Steven Martina, minister of economic development & tourism, Curaçao; and Robert Tonge, minister of tourism & urban renewal, Dominica.

Further confirmed leaders include Clarice Modest-Curwen, minister for tourism & civil aviation, Grenada; Sonia Tailepierre, minister of tourism, Guadeloupe; C. Emile Jessy, minister of tourism, Haiti; Karine Mousseau, tourism commissioner, Martinique; Mark Brantey, deputy premier and minister of tourism, Nevis; and Lindsay Grant, minister of tourism, St. Kitts and Nevis.

Economic impact data

There will be a CEO and Chairman Round Table, plus a separate Presidents Workshop. A news conference will announce key data related to cruising's economic impact across the Caribbean from a study by Business Research & Economic Advisors and, for the first time, the US Port Authority Forum will be open to all delegates.

One of the workshops is themed 'Creating Great Destinations: From Demand to Experiences, Ports to Tours,' moderated by Carlos Torres de Navarra, VP, commercial port operations, Carnival Cruise Line, and chairman of the FCCA Operations Committee.

Panelists include Russell Daya, executive director, marine & port operations, port developments & itinerary planning, Disney Cruise Line; Matthew Sams, VP, Caribbean relations & private islands, Holland America Group; Albino Di Lorenzo, VP, cruise operations, MSC Cruises USA; Christine Manjencic, VP, destination services operations, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings; and Russell Benford, VP, government relations, Americas, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

A strong trade show is building, with some fresh elements.

'The destinations hit by hurricanes are all coming back stronger, as reflected on the trade show floor,' according to Mario Aguirre, the FCCA's director, membership events & programs.

New at the trade show

Numerous exhibitors will have meeting rooms within their exhibition space so many pre-booked one-to-one meetings with cruise executives will take place on the trade show floor instead of a remote area. Another new element will be sponsored afternoon receptions in the exhibition, giving a chance for everyone to network over a drink and a bite to eat. Plus, the FCCA partner lounge will be located in the center of the trade show.

Puerto Rico will have one of the main pavillions, along with the US Virgin Islands, St. Maarten and Colombia. The Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, the British Virgin Islands and El Salvador all plan upgraded presences.

Future dates for the FCCA's annual event in Puerto Rico are Oct. 21-25, 2019; Oct. 19-23, 2020; and Oct. 18-22, 2021.

Posted 25 September 2018

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Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review