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Mico Cascais wants to help Caribbean destinations 're-energize'

Article-Mico Cascais wants to help Caribbean destinations 're-energize'

(Photo: Anne Kalosh)
Mico Cascais - The Caribbean is rich with stories that aren't being told
In his new role as a consultant and adviser, Mico Cascais is helping Caribbean cruise destinations hone their 'story.' Every place has a story to tell, he said, and each citizen is a storyteller.

Cascais, with more than 30 years of cruise travel and destination experience—most recently at Carnival Cruise Line as VP tour operations—is now sharing his expertise with destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.

His goal: helping them 're-energize' to take advantage of cruise industry growth.

Just 30% to 50% of passengers buy excursions. 'I'm not concerned about those. I know they'll have a great experience and they'll rate the destination higher,' Cascais said.

What's worrying is the up to 70% of people who don't buy a tour. Cascais wants to be sure destinations think about them, including the cruisers who may be returning for a third or fourth time. Continuous innovation is needed to provide experiences that engage them.

One praiseworthy example: the storyboards positioned around Falmouth, Jamaica, that tell about historic people and places.

A concern of tour operators, though, is how to protect their innovations from being copied. Cascais has suggestions. For instance, a company might nail an exclusive arrangement with an archaeologist who's linked to a site, lending cache to their particular excursion.

In any place, when people hop into a taxi, Cascais hopes drivers have enough knowledge of their home to share an accurate and engaging story with visitors. 'They just need a little direction, a little bit of coaching,' he said.

Recently he took four taxis in one town and heard four different stories. One of the drivers admitted he didn't know his island's history but was eager to learn.

Cascais also wants to see everyone's role in welcoming visitors valued.

'The person who cleans the streets is critical,' he said, as important as the ship's pilot. 'We have to have all the players.'

That's why, in his consulting for Port St. Maarten, for example, he's setting up working groups in different areas. And he'd like to have a town hall meeting for the 400 local taxi drivers to share information that helps them.

It's vital that everyone understands the diversity of people arriving on cruise ships today and the different demographics of each line, and even the differences between ships of the same line and the diversity of travelers on a single ship. That would go a long way to deliver services and tours that are suited to the clientele.

In the case of Port St. Maarten, Cascais was involved before Hurricane Irma. The destination 'always delivered a great experience, top of the charts, in the top five,' he said, citing its transportation options, tours and port faciilities. His role is to help St. Maarten stay on top, 're-energize its story and make sure its story is being told.'

One great example of that is Rainforest Adventures' newly opened Rockland Estate eco-park. It's not just another zip line, but the world's steepest. And the whole attraction emphasizes the historical importance of the venue. It tells 'a really incredible story,' he said.

Since Irma, as St. Maarten prepares for ships to return, Cascais has been participating in meetings between port officials and the lines to ensure the proper expectations are set. If that happens, people will enjoy what's available even if recovery is still under way.

In the case of his work for the Grenada Tourism Authority, Cascais has a different focus. Grenada offers an excellent people-to-people experience, friendliness, its fascinating spice industry and the distinctive 'Pure Grenada' branding.

He sees the opportunity to better craft some excursions and offerings to maximize their appeal. For example, wouldn't it be cool on a tour about nutmeg production for participants to be able to stencil the label on a 50-kilogram bag bound for Tokyo?

Cascais sees lots of interesting stories in the region that deserve telling. The Bahamas have a rich pirate history and abundant forts which, if animated somehow, could provide a compelling, new experience. 'The piracy history isn't being told,' he said.

Nor is the Caribbean's slavery history, with notable exceptions like Curaçao's Kura Hulanda Museum and Guadeloupe's Mémorial ACTe. Cascais thinks the slavery topic can be imparted with 'dignity and respect.'

Whatever a destination's story, there is plenty of opportunity to bring it out. And people spend more in a destination if they're engaged. Right now, there's a lot of money being left on the table, Cascais said. He hopes to help destinations 're-energize' and change that.

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