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Letter: Cruise destination suicide

Published on Tuesday, June 8, 2010 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

Two very interesting articles were published recently that should be of interest to lots of people involved or employed within the cruise industry.

The first article – New Honduras port seen as 'next evolution' in W. Caribbean – appeared in the June 02, 2010 edition of Seatrade Insider:

Banana Coast, Honduras' first major mainland cruise port scheduled to open in 2012 in the town of Trujillo, is beginning to get noticed as a potential destination to diversify Western Caribbean itineraries.

'It's the next evolution of this area of the world,' said Michael Pawlus, director of revenue planning for The Yachts of Seabourn who, as an executive with Norwegian Cruise Line years ago, was an early proponent of the island of Roatán.

Though he was not versed in the particulars of the Banana Coast project, Pawlus noted a mainland port would open the interior of the country and continue a trend of Central America development.

'People are going into Belize and Guatemala, and Roatán has come along so this is another port in the region that gives cruise operators options,' he told Seatrade Insider, adding that Mexico's Costa Maya is also relevant to the area.

The $20m Banana Coast development project, led by Grande Trujillo Authoridad

(GTA) - a partnership between the Municipality of Trujillo, local landowners led by Life Vision Properties and Miami-based Global Destinations Development - is scheduled to receive its first cruise passengers in 2012.

Discussions with several lines are under way.

The destination has launched its official website at bananacoast.com with information about the project, the town, its history and culture, things to do in the region and a photo gallery.

Randy Jorgensen, ceo for Life Vision Developments and GTA board member, said Banana Coast will create 'a sustainable landside tourism industry coupled with a custom-built cruise port infrastructure in a destination that combines ecotourism and soft-adventure opportunities.'

Creation of a cruise port at Trujillo has been under discussion since 2004.

Global Destinations Development conducted a Cruise Destination Fitness Test to assess the area's feasibility as a cruise destination. The test analyzed the major factors that constitute a successful destination, including geographic location, docks, condition of the town, marketing attractiveness to cruisers and travel agents, maritime operational costs, on-board revenue potential and predicted guest satisfaction.

Banana Coast aims to combine the natural attractions of Trujillo, a town with a population of 30,000 located on Honduras' northern coast, with high-quality passenger facilities and amenities. The project will feature Banana Coast Landing, a themed retail destination with approximately 50,000sq ft of shopping, a restaurant and an excursion marina, all framed by the town's tropical setting.

Trujillo is located on Trujillo Bay, a natural, protected deep-water harbor visited by Christopher Columbus in 1502. While ships initially will anchor and tender passengers, GTA plans eventually to build a dock capable of accommodating two post-Panamax vessels simultaneously near downtown Trujillo.

The second article – Destination Suicide, by Henry Yaniz, FCCA Platinum Member, Tobago Department of Tourism – appeared in the First Quarter 2010 edition of Cruising Magazine:

Much has been written or said about the rise and fall of cruise destinations, and especially about how new ports get themselves on the cruise map - and how seemingly successful destinations lose their edge. Why is this so? Why are some destinations more successful than others? To paraphrase the words of the British historian, Arnold Toynbee, I would suggest to you that “Cruise destinations die from suicide, not from murder".

Toynbee rejected a deterministic view of history that civilizations rise and fall according to a natural and inevitable cycle. For Toynbee, a civilization might or might not continue to thrive, depending on the challenges it faced and its responses to them, and wrote that "Civilizations die from suicide, not from murder".

Cruise lines, and all of the actors involved in the development of the cruise industry, have invested hundreds of millions of dollars and year-after-year of promotion to build appeal for and passenger traffic to cruise destinations all around the world. Successful destinations beget successful itineraries, which build successful cruise regions, which result in wealth, happiness, and long-life for all. More and more, we see a growing spirit of cooperation and true partnership among and between cruise lines, industry vendors and suppliers, and cruise ports of call. This spirit of partnership is a natural by-product of a deeper understanding that "we are all in this together" and that our mutual best interests are maximized when there is a high level of cooperation and coordination. Success breeds success.

The cruise industry understands this, and their very success is predicated on three principal tenets: investment, innovation, adaptation -- all wrapped up in a "can't be beat" value proposition. Perhaps this explains their unprecedented history of growth, customer satisfaction, and return on investment. The goal is simple. The cruise business is in the business of building and promoting cruise destinations to satisfy the wishes of their cruise guests. For the most part, cruise passengers 'cruise' with the idea of visiting and learning about new destinations; and a significant number of these visitors participate in organized or independent shore excursions, 'shop til they drop', or perhaps roam on their own. Regardless, their goal is to visit the destination or destinations of their choosing, while cruising.

It is not clear to me that the stewards of these same cruise destinations share the clarity of this simple and straightforward goal, and many times are seen to embark upon a path towards 'destination suicide'. How better to explain the oftentimes careless and irresponsible management of their 'destination product'; wherein, valuable infrastructure, port or tourist, is permitted to deteriorate; innovation is sorely lacking or stifled, crime and a general lack of security are permitted to fester; transparency is opaque; and the costs to visiting cruise lines grows without logic.

Destination suicide can take many forms, and we have all been witness to this cruel and senseless act.

Port facilities are left to crumble, are not modernized, updated, or expanded as needed. Ground transportation assets are not improved, taxi services are not adequately supervised, policed, or regulated, and taxi costs bear no relationship to reality -- or distance. Tourist facilities, attractions, or activities are unattractive and have fallen behind - today's visitors are far more demanding and expect more than yesterdays 'city tour'. And, in the face of this, costs continue to rise and declining destinations look to increase taxes or fees with no thought to value or their competitive position in a global arena. Have we forgotten this basic economic truth - there is less demand at a higher price and/or consumers will replace the higher cost good with a lower cost good. That is to say, over time, cruise operators will substitute lower cost ports for higher cost ports; and lower cost regions for higher cost regions. Look around, it's happening now.

Take a page from the cruise lines' book. Invest, innovate, and adapt -- it worked for them, it will work for you.

The proposition that "destinations die from suicide and not murder" is of paramount importance to us in Cayman as we slip from once being the #4 cruise port in the Caribbean.

Robert Hamaty
Advancement of Cruise Tourism ( ACT)
 
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