The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) have begun talking about a matter which the region’s tourism development agency says affects the Caribbean in significant ways.

Representatives from both organizations met recently in Miami to discuss how they can work together to tackle the issue of the mass repositioning of cruise ships from the southern Caribbean in the summer months and to improve the overall competitiveness of the Caribbean for summer cruising.

A delegation of Eastern Caribbean Ministers of Tourism, led by CTO Chairman Ricky Skerritt, met with FCCA officials last week at the offices of Carnival Cruise Lines to listen to each other’s concerns and to explore ways to confront the situation in a manner that is mutually beneficial. Both sides agreed to a broad frame-work which includes conducting and sharing “a substantial amount of information- gathering and research”. They have also designated representatives from both teams to follow-up on ideas related to marketing and product development, and to report on progress made when the group meets again at a proposed meeting in June.

The CTO has expressed concern over the continued massive loss of cruise business, particularly from the southern/eastern Caribbean, due to the seasonal repositioning of vessels from the Caribbean to other ports each summer. The region’s tourism development agency says this practice results in significant economic loss to local businesses and economies during this prolonged period of economic slowdown.

“We ask that together we begin a new examination of the issues related to this concern so that the Caribbean, especially those islands farther to the east and south, can become more competitive in the

summer cruise business without compromising the financial performance of the cruise lines,” Senator Skerritt said, adding that he hoped for a viable solution that would result in a win-win situation for the cruise lines and the Caribbean.

The cruise industry is a significant component of the region’s tourism mix and the Caribbean remains a highly desirable winter cruising destination.  In 2010 the region’s cruise passenger arrivals grew by six per cent, continuing the phenomenal growth experienced over the past four decades with the numbers climbing from just over one million cruise visits in 1970 to over 20 million last year.  CTO leaders want this strong consumer demand for the region in the cruise industry to be developed year round, with more summer business resulting.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization is the region’s tourism development agency committed to working with its thirty-three member countries and industry partners to grow travel to the region and maintain the Caribbean’s position as the world’s leading warm weather tourism destination.

In addition to Senator Skerritt, the CTO delegation to the talks included Hon. John Maginley, Minister of Tourism for Antigua & Barbuda; Hon. Richard Sealy, Minister of Tourism for Barbados; Hon. Ian Douglas, Minister of Tourism for Dominica; Hon. Hon. Clyde Van Putten, Commissioner of Tourism for St. Eustatius;  Hon. Allen Chastanet, Minister of Tourism for Saint Lucia; Hon. Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner of Tourism for the United States Virgin Islands; and Hugh Riley, Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization.