In Brief: Conference finds growth opportunities for synergies between Atlantica’s ports, tourism and the cruise infrastructure.
By ANDY WALKER Special
CHARLOTTETOWN — A multibillion-dollar boom in the cruise ship industry is gathering steam, and Atlantic Canadian ports of call have a greater chance of success if they work together.
“Just in the United States alone, the cruise ship industry accounted for over $34 billion in direct spending in 2005,” Michael Crye told delegates Wednesday to the Canada-New England Cruise Symposium being held in Charlottetown.
“It accounted for 330,000 jobs and $13.5 billion in salaries.”
Mr. Crye is president of Cruise Line International Association, an umbrella group representing 16 lines. The four-day symposium, which wraps up today, attracted representatives of cruise lines and ports of call from across the eastern seaboard.
“Our members annually visit over 500 ports of calls across the world,” he said.
“The industry is growing so fast, there are currently 39 new cruise ships on order across the world.”
He said the fastest growing market is people in their late 30s and 40s who are established in their careers and have higher disposable incomes.
Passengers are looking for what he termed a “unique experience,” Mr. Crye said, adding there are now theme cruises and a more diverse package of excursions than ever before.
Charles Robertson, the president and CEO of Pearl Sea Cruises, based in Washington state, pointed out the market is changing quickly.
“The biggest growth in the market is in the 55-plus age range, often recent retirees with the high disposable income.”
There are also more people under 30 taking cruises than a decade ago, Mr. Robertson said. As well, because more ships now offer facilities for people using wheelchairs or other walking aids, that market is also growing.
Mr. Robertson said Atlantic Canada came out on top in a survey of his passengers about their favourite destinations. His company already offers cruises in the region in the spring and summer and is now planning to expand into the fall market.
“We will be in this region for the foreseeable future,” he said.
One of the major obstacles for growth in the region’s cruise industry is the need to improve infrastructure, said Mr. Robertson, who along with Mark Ittel of Bermello Ajamil and Partners Inc., said the key to success is co-operation.
“Good port development is essential whether you are talking small, medium or large ships,” said Mr. Ittel, whose firm has helped design port infrastructure around the world.
He also said the cruise ship industry must work with the people who live in the area surrounded by the harbour to ensure their quality of life is not compromised.
“When you are looking at building facilities, you should see if they can also be used to attract land-based tourists or year-round residents,” Mr. Ittel said.
“That is especially important in an area like Atlantic Canada, where the season is relatively short.”