Facing increased competition from the Mediterranean, European and North American markets in the fast growing cruise industry, Caribbean countries are being warned that their achievements may be jeopardised if they do not seek to provide a unique brand, and to continually refresh it.

The warning has come from Minister of International Transport, George Hutson, who noted that while the Caribbean region had been the dominant cruise market over the years, accounting for some 37 per cent of all itineraries last year, there had been a substantial loss of market share.

Minister Hutson, was at the time addressing a seminar on "Branding for Cruise Destinations: Creating the Iconic Cruise Destination" at Hilton Barbados.

He told his audience: "We continue to place emphasis on depicting the Caribbean as sun and sea to a mass market audience. Consequently, the homogenous view of the region continues to be perpetuated by images of sandy beaches and palm trees. The competitiveness of the cruise industry demands that each location within the region demonstrate product differentiation."

In this regard, Minister Hutson noted that larger cruise vessels, currently under construction, were designed to offer passengers "a total holiday experience" on board, including rock climbing, artificial beaches and waves for surfing.

"As a result, innovation strategies must be developed that will create a different visitor experience?? in each location, and?? lure cruise passengers?? off ships and increase spending within that location,"?? he implored.

With cruise tourism contributing an estimated BDS $63.9 million to the economy in 2008, Mr. Hutson said Government had embarked on a number of initiatives to develop and enhance the Barbados brand, including the establishment of a joint public and private sector Cruise Tourism Task Force.

He added that Government was also in the process of selecting a joint venture partner to expand the cruise facilities, including the construction of a cruise pier, a new homeport facility and general improvements for expanded shopping at the Bridgetown Port.

"Initiatives to encourage ships to stay longer?? in?? port?? have also been approved by?? the Cabinet , and these will hopefully?? provide opportunities for private sector enterprises to offer additional night?? or evening?? activities to cruise passengers – hence increasing passenger spend,"?? Minister?? Hutson?? outlined.

In this regard, he also alluded to plans for the development of???? reclaimed land in the area to the west of Trevor’s Way, to bring the Pelican Village experience a bit closer to the cruise ships (Bridgetown Port), and by extension to cruise passengers.

The Minister concluded that opportunities?? to?? offer?? homeport?? options?? to cruise lines, especially European partners, as well as exploration?? of new markets in?? South?? America?? and the Far East, offered?? "tremendous opportunities for Barbados?? and certainly the?? region."

Over 30 port officials from the region attended the seminar, which was organised by the Barbados Port Inc. in collaboration with the Inter-American Committee on Ports (CIP) of the Organisation of American States.????cgaskin@barbados.gov.bb

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