Meetings & Events
commissioner of tourism, USVI; Carla Campos, executive director, Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC); and Alex Gumbs, business development and marketing manager, Port St. Maarten, for “Investing in Your Future. “The theme of this panel is specifically around partnership, but also partnership has been a recurring theme in not only the other panels and meetings…but of the FCCA,” said Goldstein. The panel showed how this was displayed during crisis following last year’s storms, with Sasso pointing out that ships could have been moved, but instead stayed to help. For MSC Group, that help also came through as reaching out to their own subsidiaries and partners and “six degrees of separation” to find all the resources and then “connect the dots” for initiatives like providing containers carrying water and even a semi-permanent school, along with ferries to transport people in need. “Connecting those dots” on a larger scale is something all need to focus on moving forward as the region will have to find ways to “challenge the status quo” in order to grow or maintain its capacity, he continued. Proper planning also took the spotlight throughout the crisis and can be viewed as a bigger picture. In terms of crisis management, Nicholson-Doty confirmed that all the hard work is done in the preparation, and Sasso pointed to things for other destinations to consider for the future, including forming a crisis management plan and properly coor26 FOURTH QUARTER 2018 | TRAVEL & CRUISE
dinating on efforts like relief supplies to prevent duplication and ensure the essentials arrive. In the end, Sasso said that the experience brought all closer together, and the incredible recovery in Puerto Rico showcases the efforts and resilience, while also serving as a sterling example of what partnership can do. Israel also praised the recovery, however told the focus should not be on building back quickly, but to build back sustainably and with the ability to “better survive” such storms by preparing infrastructure and utilities for the new reality of weather patterns—something Gumbs pointed out had already happened following initiatives from previous storms, such as mostly underground power, leading to a recovery of months instead of years. Puerto Rico had obviously done that when building back better, and that tied to another key lesson learned by the destination and shared by Campos: “assess and adapt.” She also echoed the earlier theme of the importance of the people themselves and preparing them for the messaging and experience to deliver to ensure consistency, while also tracking trends and metrics to understand when to pivot messaging. Nicholson-Doty echoed the need for that communication with stakeholders throughout the destination, but also pointed out that same kind of ongoing dialogue is needed with the cruise industry, and all the destination representatives praised
their work with the FCCA Operations Committee in better understanding the needs and ways to improve—including plenty of new experiences, which she told are especially vital considering the 60 percent of repeat visitors to St. Thomas. The idea of reinvention was also mentioned by Gumbs and literally printed on the St. Maarten delegation’s shirts, and he reaffirmed the significance of preparing stakeholders. For St. Maarten, that even meant creating workshops specifically for the purpose of gathering stakeholders to teach the story to tell guests – and one of its new experiences, the award-winning Rockland Estate, is a sign of partnership, with Carnival Corporation investing in it as part of its strategy to support local operators and attractions that display natural assets and provide unforgettable experiences. Despite the success story written in the midst of tragedy, the panel went on to discuss and peek at chapters of the book with challenges to come—including changing consumer trends, increasing competition from a global playing field and the need to focus on sustainability and implement environmentally friendly measures as the industry continues to exceed compliance, while wanting its partners to do the same—but agreed that for those embracing the spirit of partnership and constant improvement, smooth sailing is ahead. For more coverage, including full features of the workshops and opening ceremony on Facebook Live, please visit @FCCAupdates.