Good experiences,new programs help cruise ship industry to grow

Diane Crocker
Published on June 12, 2014
A cruise ship seen  at the port in Corner Brook. The city hosted a symposium for industry stakeholders during the weekend. Reports say the industry has been steadily growing.
— File photo by The Western Star

The cruise industry in Atlantic Canada has experienced tremendous growth in the last 10 years, and that’s something Brian Webb expects will continue.

Webb is the executive director of Cruise Atlantic Canada. Thursday morning he was a panellist in a discussion on the state of the cruise industry at the 16th annual Canada New England Cruise Symposium at the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook. The symposium is being hosted by the Port of Corner Brook.

About 100 people attended the discussion, which was moderated by Christine Duffy, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

The other panellists included the heads of the other organizations that, along with Cruise Atlantic Canada, make up the Cruise Canada New England alliance — Rene Trepanier, executive director of Cruise St. Lawrence; Amy Powers, director of CruiseMaineUSA; Michael Vanderbeek, deputy port director, sales and marketing, Massport  Authority — Maritime Department (Cruiseport Boston); and Elizabeth Shearin, vice-president cruise operations, NY Cruise.

“The cruise industry is the type of industry that experiences fluctuations on a year-to-year basis,” Webb said following the panel discussion. “So whenever you look at it from one year to the next, there might be slight ups or slight downs. But overall for the last 10 years we’ve seen a great trend upward, and overall most of our ports are experiencing growth and we just see more and more ships coming to the region.”

Webb said keeping the industry strong starts with offering a great customer experience.

“When you provide a customer a great experience in your location, they’re going to tell their friends and they’re going to come back,” he said.

“Another thing that has done really well in the entire Canada-New England area is we’re constantly working on what are called the shoreside programs.”

That includes tours and activities for passengers as they arrive in port.

“When those are freshened, you cannot only get new people to experience something new, you can get people who have come before to experience something new. ... We focus on developing new products all the time so that they have something new to offer their guests.”

But there are still challenges, Webb said. The primary challenge is the seasonality of industry in the region.

“We’re known as a fall destination, which in many ways is a great thing because we’ve built our own little niche.”

But Webb said the industry must promote the region as more than a fall destination.

The second thing is dealing with regulatory challenges, which could include border issues, regulatory issues and even environmental issues.

“We constantly need to work with our cruise line partners and with our government partners to try to make the business flow as smoothly as possible,” said Webb.

Webb said the things he discussed are common to all members of the alliance. He said the alliance exists because from a cruise line perspective the parties are one region.

“So anybody who comes into Atlantic Canada is on an itinerary that stops at many different ports,” said Webb. “So you’re only as strong as your weakest link and so that’s why we work so well together is that we’re committed to making sure that that weakest link is strong. They’re experiencing the same growth that we are because of the fact that their passengers are our passengers.”