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Canada/New England's new cruise strategy set for symposium unveiling

(Photo: © Port of Montréal)
A busy cruise day at the Port of Montréal, whose newly updated cruise terminal will house the symposium
The launch of a new cruise strategy for the Canada/New England region will kick off this year's regional symposium, hosted by Montréal.

With festivities for the city's 375th anniversary, Canada's 150th birthday and the inauguration of a dramatically updated cruise terminal, Montréal is a timely venue for the Cruise Canada/New England Symposium, June 13-15.

'The whole city is celebrating the 375th anniversary' so there will be loads of activities and attractions, according to René Trépanier, executive director of Cruise the Saint Lawrence, which is organizing the 19th edition of the symposium in collaboration with the Port of Montréal.

The event will take place inside the renovated and expanded cruise terminal, due to handle its first ship, a Holland America Line vessel, on May 6. The terminal opened 50 years ago for Expo 1967, and a huge investment has gone into modernizing the facility and the more than a century-old Alexandra Pier.

Last year's symposium, in New York City, involved a workshop with all delegates participating to infuse the Canada/New England Cruise Alliance with ideas to inform its new cruise strategy.

The alliance members—Cruise the Saint Lawrence, Cruise Atlantic Canada, CruiseMaine USA, Cruiseport Boston, NYCruise—will launch the strategy and the new branding and logo at the symposium's opening conference.

The event will also feature a session involving other regional associations to share best practices and benchmarking in areas like marketing, the quality of the experience and security.

A marketplace for short one-to-one meetings between suppliers and buyers will be refined, Trépanier said, to ensure perfect matches, giving priority request to the buyers (cruise lines).

A fun, interactive trivia game will pit teams against each other to test knowledge of the region and its new developments on topics both serious and quirky. An itinerary planning workshop developed by David Selby will focus on Canada/New England.

Yet another session will delve into delivering a quality experience. The St. Lawrence ports have been auditing their welcome experience for three years in a row. The next step will be to go into the field, beyond the cruise terminal, and assess the quality of the overall experience.

Trépanier expects the symposium to draw more than 200 delegates, including executives from a wide range of cruise lines, and destination representatives from across the Canada/New England region.

2017 is a very strong year for the St. Lawrence, he said, with a 'big step' up to 346,000 passengers from 2016's 252,000.

Some of the growth is driven by operators branching out from the peak fall foliage period, following the lead of Holland America Line, which routinely operates throughout the summer. All the smaller ports in the St. Lawrence will get more calls. 2018 is projected to be strong, too.

'We're really enthusiastic,' Trépanier said. 'Our growth is not based on only one player but a diversity of lines.'

Of the major brands, only MSC Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Costa are not currently operating in the region. The St. Lawrence attracts mid-size and smaller ships, including those of lines like Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn and Silversea. 'This is great,' Trépanier said, because they fit well in the smaller ports and diversify the business.

Symposium information/registration is here.