Though the impact of this hurricane season has been 'unbelievable,' FCCA chairman Adam Goldstein told attendees from across the Caribbean and Mexico, 'We are all together in this effort of recovery. We are going to rebuild the affected destinations better than before.'
Goldstein, president and COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., recently visited Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands with other top RCL executives, where they witnessed the professionalism of government and tourism officials who are working hard every day despite not having power or comforts in their own homes.
The FCCA chairman also cited a 'wonderful partnership' between destinations and cruise lines. 'It's continuing to be strong. It will help get us through the current challenges we face,' he said.
Many, many destinations were not impacted by storms, Goldstein stressed. However, at those that were hit, 'the magnitude is beyond our ability to help.' Even so, the cruise industry is providing a hefty approximately $30m toward relief efforts. Some 10,000 people have been evacuated by ship, and 40 cruise vessels have been involved in delivering relief supplies.
'And we will continue to assist,' Goldstein said.
'This is a difficult moment, nevertheless a very exciting moment,' he told the crowd. Because the cruise business is strong and growing, destinations that rebuild have the opportunity to take advantage of this growth and the economic benefits in store from the more than 200,000 new cruise berths, valued at over $50bn, due to come on line. A number of those new ships will be operating in the region.
During his keynote address, Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line, also framed this crisis as an opportunity.
'If we take the time to strategize, plan and execute, we can turn this crisis into something genuinely good,' he said. As the region rebuilds, there is opportunity for islands to differentiate themselves and tell how they're unique and different.
'You have the chance now to make the Caribbean even more relevant than it has been,' Ashford told FCCA attendees. He compared the challenge to how, in recent years, people at Holland America—with its 140-year-old legacy—have worked hard to 'tell our story in a way that's more relevant to guests.'
Gov. Rolando Zapata of Mérida's Yucatán state expressed solidarity with destinations across the region and said: 'Together, we can overcome these difficult moments.'
And Mexico's Secretary of Tourism Enrique de la Madrid talked about the devastating earthquakes that swept through several states, but added that his people are known for their pride and solidarity. And, like the Caribbean, 'Mexico is open for business.'
Check back for further reporting from the FCCA conference and trade show.