FCCA President Michele M. Paige has branded Jamaica as “a jewel” and the ports of Ocho Rios, Falmouth and Montego Bay as among the “best in the world”, while commending initiatives being employed locally to make visitors happy with the experiences available to them on land.
Ms. Page made the comments during a press briefing at the Half Moon Hotel, Montego Bay, recently following two days of stakeholder meetings and port inspections by executives of the FCCA; the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett; Director of Tourism, Paul Pennicook; Vice President, Cruise Shipping and Marina Operations at the Port Authority of Jamaica, William Tatham; and executives of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
Citing Jamaica as “our home,” with a partnership spanning over 50 years of cruise ships coming to Jamaica, Ms. Paige said, “this is a new beginning,” in the wake of Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness’ meeting with CEOs in the industry last December and what had been seen over the two days.
“The whole experience in Jamaica is great. Jamaica is an established destination but there have been some impediments. Over the last two days what we’ve experienced is nothing less than amazing; the commitment from Jamaica, the people in Jamaica, they want to get to the next level of being a demand destination, they want to welcome tourists to their home and to show just how special Jamaica is,” she said.
Vice President of Strategic and Commercial Port Development at Carnival Cruise Lines, Carlos Torres de Navarra said the trip felt like “a marriage that has been in place for close to 50 years and it feels like a renewing of vows.”
He said the FCCA team came here with the objective of looking at every destination “and Jamaica has the benefit of having three distinctive ports. Not every country has that; they don’t have that ability to sell the experience of their country at three different points.” He said their intention was “to basically walk the same steps that our guests are walking and give some feedback in terms of what can you do as partners to improve what is the guests experience.”
As a marquee destination that resonated with guests as somewhere to visit at least once in a lifetime, Mr. Navarra said, “the important thing to remember is that people have high expectations and it’s all about delivering on those high expectations because if you got a big gap between that marquee value and what our guests are seeing at the end of the day that’s when you get the disappointment and the reduced demand for what is the Jamaican product.”
Minister Bartlett said Jamaica is seeking to increase cruise arrivals to 2.5 million over the next four years from the 1.66 million recorded in 2016 and was “committed to ensuring the guest experience is not just good, is not just excellent but exceptional.” He said steps had been taken to enable that by building out a discreet institutional arrangement to manage the resort and destination areas and to provide oversight for that management.
He then outlined the change from Resort Boards to Destination Assurance Councils and the appointment of Destination Managers, starting with Falmouth and the allocation of $1 billion to provide a safe and enjoyable environment. This is to be accompanied by a major public education programme to sensitize residents.
Minister Bartlett also invited the FCCA executives to explore employing more Jamaicans in the cruise industry.