'I'm here because I want to show my government's commitment to the cruise industry. It's been an opportunity to interface with all the cruise lines,' Grant told Seatrade Insider during an interview at the St. Kitts booth in the exhibition.
He added that St. Kitts was given 'very high marks' from the officials he met, who indicated the destination delivers favorable guest satisfaction ratings. There were no concerns the cruise lines brought to his attention.
'Our destination is unique,' Grant said, pointing to the 400-year-old Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the St. Kitts Scenic Railway; and the Caribelle Batik Factory, where visitors can create their own wax-print fabric designs. Also, the sister island of Nevis offers a different kind of visitor experience, one that's ideal for smaller, boutique ships.
Grant attended the Monday night speakers' reception for VIPs and conference session speakers, participated in the week's various Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association events and met with cruise line representatives from Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC and Windstar, among others.
The minister said he picked up how much cruise lines value 'an ear that listens to them.'
St. Kitts' passenger arrivals grew to more than one million for the first time during the 2014/15 season. Grant forecasts numbers to grow an additional 250,000 to 300,000 in the coming years.
Completion of Port Zante's second cruise mega-pier is scheduled ahead of the 2016/17 cruise season. Grant said the objective is not to significantly increase traffic but to 'ensure that all ships that enter our port are taken care of at the highest level' while also keeping St. Kitts competitive with other destinations. He's a proponent of sustainable development.
One of Grant's future objectives is enticing cruise ships to stay overnight at St. Kitts.
The Kittitian delegation to Cruise Shipping Miami numbered about 10 strong, from the public and private sectors. Private-sector representatives like Clayton Perkins, md of Delisle Walwyn & Co./Kantours, the Basseterre-based port agent and tour operator, welcomed Grant's presence at the event.
'Despite how new and fresh he is to the industry, he's showing a very keen commitment to jump into the saddle immediately and keep St. Kitts and Nevis moving forward,' Perkins said. 'You can see he's focused on absorbing all the information so he's well-informed to make the necessary decisions.'
'As a tour operator,' added Bryan Monkhouse, chair of Blue Water Safaris, 'we require not only the day-to-day support of the port and everyone else, we require the support of the government and it's helpful to have an active, energetic minister overseeing the tourism portfolio.'
Other St. Kitts and Nevis representatives at Cruise Shipping MIami included Jonathan Bass, ceo of the St. Christopher Air & Sea Ports Authority; St. Kitts Tourism Authority ceo Racquel Brown, product standards and cruise manager Melnecia Marshall and customer service agent Ashley Okereke; Steve Hites, president and director, St. Kitts Scenic Railway—who was a conference speaker; Mars Shuie, project manager, St. Kitts Eco Park; and Errington Fyfield, manager of Kantours.