Representatives from several of the territory’s agencies that deal with ports are in Cartagena, Colombia, for the annual Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Cruise Conference and Trade Show that runs through Friday.
“It’s a great time to meet with cruise line officials face to face,” Tourism Department spokesman Luana Wheatley said.
The team will be jointly led by V.I. Port Authority Chairman Robert O’Connor Jr. and Port Authority Director Carlton Dowe, the West Indian Co. Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boshulte and WICO Board Vice-chairman Roosevelt David as well as Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty and Deputy Tourism Commissioner Chantal Figueroa.
The gathering of industry participants at Cartagena de Indias Convention Center is one of the premier industry events of the year for ports, attractions, suppliers, cruise and tourism agencies, tour operators, and ship agents, the Tourism Department said in a press release issued Monday.
More than 1,000 cruise industry partners, including about 100 cruise executives, attend the annual conference.
"This is an opportunity for our teams to meet with key cruise industry players, get an idea of trends and current issues, and market for new business," Doty, who serves on the Port Authority and WICO boards, said.
Meetings with cruise executives will focus on the territory’s continuing infrastructure improvement plans and updates on port enhancement projects at destination facilities. Plans to accommodate larger class vessels at both ports on St. Thomas will be reviewed. The territorial representatives will make a pitch to the cruise ship executives on why they should increase calls to the island of St. Croix.
In addition to existing tours and excursion offerings, the team will also provide an update on the major upgrades to the Paradise Point lookout on St. Thomas, which includes comprehensive restaurant facilities.
Additionally, they will discuss the recent refreshing of the Oscar E. Henry Customs House at the Ann E. Abramson Pier in Frederiksted in St. Croix, Captain Morgan Visitor Center attraction tours for purchase aboard ships calling on St. Croix, as well as plans for a water park on St. Croix and a theme park on St. Thomas.
The talks offer a number of round-table discussions led by industry experts and guest speakers who are specialists in marketing, sourcing, shore excursions and operations. It also affords destinations the opportunity for quality, one-on-one time with cruise line decision-makers.
"We are in an extremely competitive environment and the strength of the combined USVI team at this event gives us a chance to promote our products to the widest group of people, yet coordinate our efforts in the best interest of each port and island," O’Connor said. "We are doing some very good things and now is the time for us to get aggressive and let others know.”
In addition to taking advantage of the various sessions, the territory’s beauty and other attributes will be on display at the trade show.