Refreshing the product, taking risks and launching innovations can help to get the Caribbean on that 'hot list' where it belongs, keynote speaker Adam Goldstein, president and COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., told Tuesday night's conference opening ceremony.
'There's a lot of economic activity for all of us to pursue and the potential for much, much more,' Goldstein said. Cruising is currently a more than $100bn industry globally, and the Caribbean—No. 1 in the world—has a 37% market share, up from 2013.
That's good, but the competition for ships is global. 'The energy in Asia is unbelievable,' Goldstein added, suggesting FCCA attendees visit that region to see 'what the global state of the tourism industry has become.'
Goldstein said investment and product renewal are musts. For the first time, all the major cruise operators are involved in port infrastructure developments to keep up with growth. Bolstering overall attributes for the Caribbean is important—and so is avoiding tax hikes of any kind.
Urging destinations to cast off myths about cruising, the Royal Caribbean chief cited Caribbean Tourism Organization research on the future of Caribbean cruise travel.
The CTO found consumers deem on-shore activities more important than shipboard activities, culture and heritage rank much higher than the traditional beach experience, there is an elevated interest in shoreside shopping opportunities, and authenticity is important.
These findings can be a guide for the Caribbean in shaping itself to better compete and get more summer—therefore, year-round—business.
Also, cruise lines would like to be in alignment with the destinations. 'We would like you to know about our customers so you can evolve along with the brands,' Goldstein said.
He noted the youngest baby boomer turned 50 this year, and the most talked-about new market for cruising is the 95m-strong millennial generation who are 'more connected, even more active than baby boomers and travel more in multigenerational groups.'
Twenty-two tourism ministers and commissioners from across the Caribbean are at the 21st annual FCCA conference and trade show, along with 70 cruise line executives amid more than 1,200 attendees, according to FCCA president Michele Paige.
It is the largest and most successful trade show in FCCA history, said FCCA chairman Kevin Sheehan, president and ceo of Norwegian Cruise Line.
This year St. Maarten expects nearly 1.7m passengers, an impressive number, Sheehan said, 'earned by their consistency, innovation, improving infrastructure and fostering public and private participation.' On Tuesday an entire conference workshop delved into how St. Maarten became a success story.
Any destination can emulate St. Maarten's example, Sheehan stated, adding: 'Our strength comes from all of us working together cohesively.'