A three-day cruise forum is bringing companies to St. John’s to learn about — and share knowledge with — the provincial industry.
The International Exploration Cruise Forum — which runs until Friday at the Delta Hotel — touts what Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer the cruise industry, which has grown 84 per cent in the past 10 years in this province, said Lisa Neville, executive director of Cruise Newfoundland and Lab-rador.
“The whole purpose behind the Exploration Cruise Forum is we now have 53 operational ports in Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said.
“The cruise association represents these ports and markets all of these ports to the major cruise lines throughout the world. … They can handle different-sized vessels de-pending on where they are. So if we took, for example, Rigolet, on the north coast of Labrador. Because there’s coastal boats that go in and out of there, it can handle mid- to small-sized ships. Then we get into larger ports, which will be Corner Brook, St. Anthony, St. John’s, St-Pierre-Miquelon.”
Cruise Newfoundland and Lab-rador has developed several itineraries to market to cruise lines around the world to see the province and other areas in the North Atlantic, said Neville, to take advantage of all those ports.
“The attraction for Newfoundland and Labrador is cruise passengers who have done everything else. This is a way for them to get away from it all, for lack of a better expression. It’s more about the experience than the product offering itself. We’re perceived as being kind of a last frontier, if you will. Everything is so pristine, un-touched, unspoiled, so that really is the main focus point for people wanting to travel here.”
What it means is more cruise ships in St. John’s Harbour and ports around the province, said Neville, with smaller ports handling smaller vessels.
“The nice thing for these ports is they develop. You get the small ships in first, you develop your product for 50 or 100 passengers, then you get your infrastructure requirements in place, you get your own cruise committee, you get your community engaged. So they get the glitches out with the small ships, and they move up to larger-sized vessels.”
And after the recent global economic downturn, customers are coming back to cruises because inclusive pricing helps vacationers fit a trip to a budget, said Neville.
“There was a decline in the cruise industry, no doubt, like it impacted everything else,” said Neville.
“But cruise now is really on an upswing. It is the largest-growing sector in the tourism industry worldwide,” she said.
“The reason for it is when people look at vacations, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to take a vacation. When you book it, you book your airline and you book your cruise. Included in your cruise are all your meals, all your entertainment, the whole gamut. So when you pay up front for a cruise and you spend the year paying off your cruise, when you go on your vacation, there’s nothing else extra that you’re going to spend unless it’s a few trinkets or things you want to bring back.”