Cruise Shipping Sector Supports UNWTO Global Conference

PRESS RELEASE: Cruise shipping interests in the island’s resort towns are confident that the upcoming United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism will offer the opportunity to discuss critical issues relating to the sector.

And not only are they calling it the biggest and most important tourism conference to ever be held in the region, they also point to the significance of having cruise and land based entities “meeting in the same room in an up close and personal” forum.

“The cruise sector has never really been a part of the UNWTO, which makes our participation even more interesting,” explained Michael Belnavis, Chairman of the National Cruise Council (NCC).

“You can expect to see the presence and participation from cruise sector players from one end of the Northern Coast to the other. And let’s not forget that cruise shipping is a major boost for stopover arrivals. The cruise passenger that comes for that one-day visit will be the one coming back next month with his family to stay at a hotel. Treat them nice and they will be back.”

Belnavis further noted that in recent discussions with President of the all-powerful Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), Michelle Paige, cruise officials have been expressing full support for the opportunity to discuss “wide ranging issues” with their land-based counterparts.

“I can tell you that heads of the two largest cruise companies – Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line – have expressed their interest in participating, giving the conference more clout in terms of the high-profile powerbrokers we will be having in our midst,” he revealed.

Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has been courting the cruise sector heavily since appointing the NCC in 2016. The council, which reflects a partnership between private and public sector interests, has been mandated to guide and grow the local cruise economy in a steady and sustainable manner. In addition, on various occasions this year, Minister Bartlett and Prime Minister Andrew Holness have travelled to Florida to meet with US executives from the FCCA, as well as cruise ship operators, Carnival and Royal Caribbean.

“The sector continues to play a critical role in global travel and tourism so I am happy that cruise shipping will have a special seat at the upcoming UNWTO global conference in Jamaica. We could not have such an important conference in the region without having the cruise sector being represented,” said the Tourism Minister.

Senior Manager of the Royal Shop Chain of Duty Free Stores, with operations in both Falmouth and Montego Bay, Ravi Daswani, agreed.

“The mere presence of Royal Caribbean and Carnival is not only a big deal but changes the whole dynamics of the entire thing,” he explained. These are the two biggest cruise lines, and their influence in tourism circles across the world is something we are all aware of. This is truly a big deal,” Daswani explained

For his part, Garfield Dussard, owner of Garfield Diving, a watersport operator with cruise-related businesses in Ocho Rios, Falmouth and Montego Bay, said the opportunity to interact personally with cruise line officials is something he has always been yearning for.

“Not everybody can go to the expensive tradeshows overseas to get a personal one on one with these cruise line bigwigs,” he noted. “By hosting a conference of this size, we are bringing the best of the best to our shores and for this the organizers must be greatly commended.”

The UNWTO conference will be held from November 27-29 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St. James. More than 800 international and local participants will be engaged in plenary sessions and workshops on a wide range of subject matters pertinent to tourism.  Tourism Ministers, Government Officials and representatives from the tourism sector worldwide are expected to attend.