The French island of Martinique staged its first-ever virtual Travel Show this week, welcoming more than 1,000 virtual guests and exhibitors to discover this picturesque “Island of Flowers” and “Rum Capital of the World,” located in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies. Among the topics drawing the most interest was the status of the cruise industry.
In her keynote address, “The State of the Cruise Industry in the Caribbean,” Lisa Cummins, senator and Minister of International Tourism and Transport in Barbados, pointed out the Caribbean region has been the number one cruise destination for over 10 years, accounting for almost 40 percent of all cruise ship ports of call.
Underscoring its importance was the creation of the American Cruise Tourism Task Force, co-chaired by Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley and the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, and representing 40 countries in the region. Its purpose is to determine how cruising can safely resume.
When it does resume, Cummins talked about how the region needs to re-examine and retool cruise industry infrastructure to ensure long-term benefits, including:
— More employment opportunities.
— More involvement in preserving the environment and conservation programs.
— Addressing the needs of larger ships through port development.
— Handling increased passenger volume.
— Exploring how to mitigate the risks of tourism-dependent economies, as well as climate events, such as hurricanes and natural disasters.
— Getting more involved in provisioning cruise ships and shore excursions.
In the short term, as the world slowly returns to normalcy, Cummins said the challenge is making more or less, and deriving greater economic benefit from fewer guests.
The Martinique Tourism Authority also issued an update on cruise-related activity. Among the items highlighted were:
— New port development in northern Martinique, with a focus on making Saint Pierre a more prominent cruise destination, in part because “the island is a candidate for UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves list” while the “volcanoes and forests of Mount Pelée and the Pitons of Northern Martinique are candidates for inclusion on UNESCO’S Natural sites lists on behalf of France by July, 2022.” In particular, they want to accommodate more small, luxury ships.
— Continue to grow home port initiatives. During the last full cruise season (2018-19), Martinique welcomed almost 410,000 cruise visitors, working with cruise partners COSTA, MSC, Club Med and PONANT. Another future focus will be increasing charter flights to the island.
— Additional investment in cruise terminal facilities, including a new space in Pointe Simon cruise terminal to provide “a new and authentic cruise village.” The Martinique Tourism Authority also signed off on deploying the Cruise Friendly system, “which will allow real interaction between the shopping offer in Fort de France downtown and cruise passengers.” The program “integrates commercial offers, maps and bracelets” and will be free of charge for members, with the cost underwritten by the Martinique Tourism Authority.
Public health continues to be a top priority, where social distancing and other measures have kept COVID cases at a low 36 per 100,000 residents, according to a tourism representative.
This year, TripAdvisor ranked Martinique number one in its “Emerging Destinations” category of the Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best awards. With its beaches, flowering forests and welcoming people, Martinique will help lead the way in creating new unforgettable Caribbean vacations for cruise visitors.