March 4, 2004 – The Virgin Islands will be trying to sell itself to the cruise industry — as will numerous other destination entities — at the 20th annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention, which opens March 15 in Florida at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
"It's the only time the whole cruise ship industry gets together," Edward E. Thomas Sr., chief executive officer of The West Indian Co., said. "Seatrade is important to any jurisdiction that wants to be in the cruise ship business."
He said the territory will have an exhibit put together jointly by WICO, the Port Authority and the Tourism Department.
The four-day event gives officials of current and aspiring cruise ship destinations the chance to meet with cruise line executives to discuss topics of mutual interest.
One of those topics is infrastructure development, and Thomas said that the cruise executives are sure to want information on when the Crown Bay port expansion on St. Thomas will be finished. "They don't like anchoring and tendering," he said, referring to ships that have no choice when all of the berthing spaces are occupied at the WICO and Crown Bay docks.
While St. Thomas again is doing well at attracting cruise ships, Thomas said, it doesn't pay to take business for granted.
He said several topics on the 2004 Seatrade agenda are of major importance to the Virgin Islands. He predicted that a hot topic will be the increasing number of cruise ships that now depart year 'round from New York and other U.S. ports outside of South Florida and Puerto Rico, some of which stop in the Virgin Islands.
He said that ports such as New York, Philadelphia and New Orleans now are having to rebuild their docking facilities to accommodate the larger cruise ships.
Another topic on the Seatrade agenda is the coexistence of megayachts and cruise ships in the same port. "It's a problem operating in small harbors," Thomas said.
Thomas is the only V.I. representative serving on a conference panel. He will take part in a discussion on "Converting Cruise Passengers to Land-based Vacationers" along with Cayman Islands marketing manager Dan Quinn, Sint Maarten Tourism Commissioner Theo Heyligher, Tropical Shipping project manager Len Coster, and Princess Cruises vice president Steve Nielsen.
Thomas said that WICO board members Rudolph Krigger, Alda Monsanto, Leona Smith, Bent Lawaetz, Gregory Francis, George Goodwin, and Gov. Charles W. Turnbull will attend the convention.
Thomas said the Port Authority could provide a complete list of V.I. government personnel who will be attending the event. However, no one could be reached at the Port Authority. The main telephone number rang with no one answering for three days in a row, and direct calls to the public relations office reached a message to call the main number.
Thomas said more than 10,000 people from all aspects of the cruise industry are expected to attend the gathering. In 2003, representatives of 76 cruise lines were on hand. This year, more than a thousand destinations and companies will have exhibits.
"You'll see people there from ports in Africa and Australia," Thomas said, naming just two of the many geographic areas that will be represented.
According to the Seatrade Web site, conference registration is $595 for exhibitors and $895 for non-exhibitors.
The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association and the International Council of Cruiselines co-sponsor the event.
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