The FCCA Central America Cruise Summit is linking more than 200 regional stakeholders with nearly 20 high-level cruise executives

FCCA - Florida-Caribbean Cruise AssociationCentral American destinations and stakeholders are on the cruise map. More than 200 from throughout the region have gathered with nearly 20 high-level executives from FCCA Member Lines, which operate 95 percent of the global cruising capacity, for the FCCA Central America Cruise Summit.

Taking place today (May 22) and tomorrow at the Costa Rica Convention Center, in San Jose, the event hosted by Costa Rica and organized by Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), the trade association that represents the mutual interests between FCCA Member Lines and destinations and stakeholders from the Caribbean and Latin America, offers the opportunity to develop understanding, relationships and business through a series of meetings, workshops and networking functions.

“The FCCA Central America Summit provides a platform for regional destinations and stakeholders to meet with and learn from key cruise industry decision makers,” said Micky Arison, chairman of Carnival Corporation and FCCA. “These kinds of interactions help instill the necessary operational knowledge and business relationships to drive improvements for all.”

After a series of one-on-one meetings, where attendees could give a pitch and receive everything from individualized input to business opportunities from pre-selected cruise executives, FCCA President Michele Paige along with representatives from Costa Rica’s private and public sectors – including Minister of Tourism Maria Amalia Revelo – officially opened the event during a welcome reception.

Addressing the audience of stakeholders and executives, Paige indicated how quickly the industry is growing, with 30 million guests expected this year and more en route from the over 70 cruise vessels with more than 240,000 lower berths on order from FCCA Member Lines, along with the industry’s current significance to the region through $425.7 million in total cruise tourism expenditures – in addition to 10,756 jobs paying $58.04 million in wages – during the 2017-18 cruise season in the seven Central American destinations (Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) participating in the 2018 Business Research & Economic Advisors (BREA) study, “Economic Contribution of Cruise Tourism to the Destination Economies.”

She also touched on the potential of both the region and industry, the latter with only 2 percent of the population having cruised and destinations like Orlando with more than double the visitors as cruisers expected this year. Considering cruising’s growth as a mainstream – and global – option, she focused on the bright horizon for the industry and what this could mean for the region.

However, she shared that the industry’s record success has only been possible through cruise lines’ highly differentiated approach and the ability to adapt to and fulfill constantly changing wants and needs – and to compete against the rising global options, she encouraged the regional stakeholders to have a similar approach in understanding what the diverse guests want and finding the best way to deliver that.

“That is why the industry is here today: to learn from each other and grow together,” she told and pointed to other symbols of the industry’s commitment to the region, including FCCA Member Lines investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the region through projects like Norwegian Cruise Line’s Harvest Caye in Belize and Carnival Corporation’s Mahogany Bay in Honduras and Amber Cove in Dominican Republic – along with continued support through social projects, infrastructure developments and initiatives to improve security and the guest experience.

She also commended the initiatives and partnership by destinations and stakeholders throughout the region, with every tourism board, many port authorities and local municipalities, and key tour operators participating in the FCCA Platinum Membership program, as well as numerous governments engaging in initiatives to maximize the mutual benefits of cruise tourism, including taking key steps to implement and reform laws to open employment opportunities for seafarers.

“It is clear that this mutual success is important to all of us here,” she continued and highlighted the schedule that would be loaded with opportunities for that mutual success through another round of one-on-one meetings as well as two workshops and a closing reception on the agenda for tomorrow.

Led by some of the attending cruise executives, along with knowledgeable private and public sector experts, the workshops will focus on key elements to foster long-term mutual success between cruise lines and destination stakeholders, while also addressing specific regional operations and improving general business with the cruise industry.

“Building Your Destination: What It Take to Be a Destination of Choice” will approach everything from cruise line and guest wants and needs to demand generation and tour operations.

Moderated by Russell Daya, Executive Director, Maritime & Port Operations & Itinerary Planning, Disney Cruise Line, panelists include Jaimie Castillo, Director, Worldwide Port Operations, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.; Jennifer Marmanillo, Director, Itinerary Planning, Norwegian Cruise Line; Claudine Pohl, International Business Development Manager and Trainer, Aquila’s Center for Cruise Excellence, FCCA’s official training partner; Leon Sutcliffe, Director, Port Operations & Government Relations, Carnival Cruise Line; and Christopher Szel, Shore Excursion Manager, TUI Cruises.

“Seafarers’ Employment & Procurement Opportunities” will touch on ways destinations can help fill the industry’s current fleet and order book with crewmembers and supplies, from the available positions along with training and legislation that can open opportunities, to purchasing procedures and demands that can help local suppliers stock up on business with cruise lines.

Moderated by Adam Ceserano, Senior Vice President, FCCA, panelists include Hugo Aparicio, Seafarer’s Placement Coordinator for El Salvador Maritime & Port Authority; Federico Gonzalez, Vice President, Destination Development, Latin America & Caribbean, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.; Vina Jumpp, Director, Procurement Food & Beverage – North America, Export US, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.; Jose Negron, Vice President, Strategic Port Development, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.; and Emilio Silvestri, Minister of Tourism of Honduras.