The Cruise Industry confraternity’s annual migration in March has just witnessed the 30th occasion of the gathering, however with a change of venue.
Redevelopment work on the Miami Convention and Exhibition Centre in Miami Beach forced a relocation of the event, however only a mere 30 minutes northwards of the former home. Fort Lauderdale was chosen by the organisers and the Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale hosted delegates from March 14-17th 2016.
This year, at the new venue, an estimated 11,000 individuals employed within the cruise industry professional community were present at the new Floridian in Florida for a week of , as the organisers described it “networking, sourcing, innovation and education.” That description might sound a little grandiose, however, it is probably fair comment bearing in mind the attendance levels at the event, which is now in it’s 30th year.
Shipbuilders, cruise companies, ship services/equipment, IT technology were well represented on the exhibitor list, but undoubtedly the sector most in evidence were Destinations as well as Port Associations, an indication of the significant competition faced within this sector. Some 300 destinations including National Tourist Boards, Cruise & Port Associations, individual ports, and shore excursion specialists constituted almost a third of the exhibitor list.
The event also has a strong Conference element and this year prominent on the agenda were subjects that threw the spotlight on Voluntourism, the growth of the Chinese market, new seasonal deployment opportunities, investment in Port facilities, Wi-Fi provision at sea as well as the growth potential of the various cruise regions etc.
While the Cruise Industry is recognised as a truly global business, it was acknowledged in the sessions I was able to attend, that Europe is a vital part of the global cruise industry, both as a vibrant source market with big potential and as a destination which offers two out of the world’s three top cruising grounds. It was also obvious that the rest of the world was also being colonised by the industry wherever new potential presented itself.
With new investment in ships providing greater diversity than ever before, the growth and reach of the cruise sector is very decidedly on the move. Issues such as geopolitics and the exchange rate movements influence deployment strategies, are amongst the challenges that have to be faced if the optimum conditions are to be in place for continued success in the next five years.
An interesting aside is that while the size of new builds are increasingly attainng previously unpredictably almost gargantuan sizes , there is undoubtedly a minor ‘backlash’ which underlines that big is not always best. An increasing number of new, mid sized vessels constitute recent orders placed with ship builders. The forecast, not too many years ago was that we were unlikely to see ‘smaller’ new build vessels, heartening for those ports of call which are not geared up to handle the mega variety of ever bigger new builds ships.