Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thunder Bay Participates in Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami's International Gathering

The arrival of the MV Clelia II at Pool 6 last summer signaled the return of passenger shipping to the downtown north core waterfront and complimented the significant investment in our waterfront currently underway.

While vessels have been coming into the city since 1997, the future for great lakes cruise shipping holds tremendous opportunity for growth. With a total economic impact of $592 000 from the twelve Clelia visits last year, cruise shipping has the opportunity to offer big returns for the community and positively impact many small businesses in a relatively short port stay. It may have only represented less than 1% of our total tourism economy last year but the importance extend beyond the actual monetary value. Cruise shipping elevates our community's reputation as a culturally enriched unique, exotic and high calibre destination. Aligning with this reputation brings tremendous positive attention to our community and region. Bluntly stated, cruise shipping is sexy.

I recently returned from attending the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami ( conference. This annual gathering, the 26th such event, is the home port of the global cruise shipping industry. It was an opportunity to spend four days in the company of two thousand delegates and thousands of industry exhibitors and travel trade specialists, sharing experiences and learning best practices from some of the world's best. While our industry is in its infancy, caters to smaller expedition type vessels and is small when compared to Miami, Port Canaveral, Alaska and BC, the lessons learned are still valuable and can be applied to our own experiences and vision.

I had the chance to take in the State of the Industry panel discussion, lead by the CEOs of six of the world's top cruise lines, as well as workshops and panel discussions on upscale markets, global source and deployment strategies, terminal design and management, expedition and discovery cruising, and more.

Overall, the industry has a lot of growth ahead of it. The industry expects to globally carry upwards of 14.1 million passengers this year, an increase of 6.4% over last year. While last year's capacity seems to have fared well, it came at heavily discounted rates. The expedition and discovery markets, our best bet, expects positive future growth projections. The global market, comprised of only 9000 berths spread among 53 ships, is very small but running at high occupancy levels, indicating potential growth opportunities for new builds in the future.

In addition to our delegate status, we were also there as members of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, a collective of 24 port cities and marine partners working together across the border to build a viable industry that diversifies, not only the tourism industry, but the Great Lakes marine industry in general. Being the only freshwater destination at the show helps us stand out, generating a constant stream of interest from other delegates, exhibitors and visitors to the show.

Lake Superior has tremendous potential to grow with respect to the expedition and discovery cruising markets. With the National Marine Conservation Area, Isle Royale, Apostle Islands and other areas of National and International importance, combined with unique communities and shore excursion options, we have to start promoting us as a place as exotic as anywhere else on earth.

for this year, we're looking at 10 return visits from the Clelia II while 2011 and 12 promise two visits by a larger vessel in each year and the possibilities of several other lines currently evaluating the market demand.

We have a long way to go to build cruise shipping for our region but the good news is that we're out of the gate, are starting to make ourselves known on the international stage and developing some great innovative bi national partnerships for the future.

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