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El Salvador eager to learn, share via FCCA Central America Summit

Anne Kalosh
El Salvador Tourism Minister José Napoleón Duarte, left, met FCCA/Carnival Corp. & plc chairman Micky Arison at Cruise Shipping Miami in March
Keen to learn about the cruise business and show what it can offer, El Salvador is hosting the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Central America Cruise Summit this month.

'This is a great opportunity to make business with the 19 member lines of the FCCA,' Tourism Minister José Napoleón Duarte told Seatrade Insider. He said the president or vice president of the country is expected to inaugurate the May 13-15 event.

This will be the association's third biennial Central America summit. Honduras hosted in 2011, and Guatemala in 2013.

For El Salvador, the cruise sector complements tourism overall, in Duarte's view. 'People who come on ships have the opportunity to come back on vacation. This can give a good momentum for tourism and the economy,' he said.

His country is a land of beaches, volcanoes and crater lakes, with an excellent road network. Tourism is the fastest growing segment of the economy.

As Central America's smallest nation, El Salvador can be called 'the 45-minute country,' Duarte quipped. The fact that so many places can be easily reached is particularly enticing for cruise ships that spend only a day in port.

Passengers can explore Mayan ruins or visit a lakeside farm and see a folkloric show, shop for handicrafts or go whale-watching on the coast where the beaches stretch for kilometers. El Salvador is a magnet for surfers. Tourism circuits include the Flower Trail, which links five charming towns.

There are more than 20 volcanoes, some within national parks. Joya de Cerén, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, draws comparisons with Pompeii for its remarkable preservation of a pre-Hispanic village that was covered by a volcanic eruption.

Azamara Club Cruises is among the few lines that visits El Salvador. Duarte hopes the FCCA event will help to entice more.

FCCA president Michele Paige said the Central America forum was created to educate both local stakeholders and cruise line executives about the region’s potential for cruise tourism. 'It provides operational knowledge and transmits cruise lines’ needs to the destinations and stakeholders, showcases the region's offerings to the executives and forges valuable business relationships,' she added.  

'Our work with the Caribbean shows the significance of this mutual understanding and relationship building, and we are working with Central America and Colombia to follow a similar path and pave the way so they can optimize cruise tourism’s benefits,' Paige said.  

By attending, stakeholders can learn what cruise lines seek in a destination, its shore excursions, infrastructure, service and standards, and how they decide to include destinations in itineraries and invest in infrastructure. Cruise executives, meanwhile, get to see the region’s potential first-hand.

One workshop, 'Breaking in to the Industry/Recipe for Success,' will be moderated by Mico Cascais, vp tour operations, Carnival Cruise Line. Speakers include Tom Anderson, director, shore excursions, Holland America Line/Princess Cruises/Seabourn; Penny Zeilman, account manager, global tour operations, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.; Beth Kelly Hatt, president, Aquila Center for Cruise Excellence; and Hellen Mena, account executive, AON Risk Solutions.

The 'Port & Destination Development' workshop will be moderated by Russell Daya, director, global port operations and development, itinerary and strategic planning, Disney Cruise Line. Speakers include Carlos Torres de Navarra, vp commercial port operations, Carnival Cruise Line; José Negron, director, port operations, Carnival Corp. & plc; and Federico Gonzålez Denton, associate vp government and community relations, Latin America & the Caribbean, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Information is here.