Destinations should begin to strategically plan for their long term value rather than short term gain or political election cycles.
Over the past 15 years we have learned the Cruise Industry in the Caribbean from the inside out with design and branding destination engagements for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney and Norwegian Cruise Lines. We have worked in over 30 island destinations with numerous Port Authorities and seen the world from the "guests perspective" and what we see is a "Virgin landscape for future growth".
We have experienced an unbelievable growth in an industry which has unlimited potential. Over 500,000 passengers per day any day are cruising in the Caribbean. With new luxury ships and exceptional on board delivery the opportunities for new players, new investors and new destinations is at an all time high. Limited by older ports filled to capacity in tired destinations the door is open now to rediscover the Caribbean with new destinations.
Guests today are looking beyond traditional travel and want to tailor their valuable vacation time to their own needs not those of the "group". As we learned in the theme park industry two decades ago, "guests no longer want to ride in the boat they want to drive the boat". Although guests cannot aspire to drive a mega ship they can drive the selection of destinations and tours they want to experience. I am always amused when I hear a cruise line executive say "we determine where the ships go" and guest follow. Actually today's informed guests choose where they want to go and select ships and itineraries they want to experience. With Richard Branson's entry into this lucrative market you will see a new breed of guests who drive the industry where they want it to go. Ships which select new innovative destinations offering unlimited tours and attractions developed for guest satisfaction not yield will win the day. Hang on, Sir Richard can change the Chess Board and lead the future of cruise tourism in new exciting directions. It is time for new destinations to step up and plan for the future when guests arrive at your destination and demand that the landside experience match the level of service and amenities that the ships are delivering. We are embarking on 5 new port projects with destinations poised to offer a new more engaging destinations waiting to be discovered. It truly is a New Virgin World!
Tortuga: Inspired Port of Call by Hugh Darley IDEA, Inc
In 1969, when I was just 12 years old, I watched a Wonderful World of Disney program about the making of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. The program was personally hosted by Walt Disney and several of the original Imagineers. One of those Imagineers was Wathel Rodgers, who would later become my mentor at WED Enterprises (“Imagineering”). From that night in 1969 I knew what I wanted to do in my career; it was to be an Imagineer and create experiences like Pirates of the Caribbean. While working at Imagineering in 1984, I was an inspired participant in the refurbishment of the original Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland. I was fascinated to work on such an icon of the entertainment industry and thought I had accomplished my dream at the ripe old age of 27. Little did I know there was more “piracy” in my future? Now after a career spanning 30 years, I can truly say I have had an opportunity of a lifetime to not only work with Disney, but to actually revisit and participate in the legacy and legend that is the Caribbean.
Following the work to create and develop Historic Falmouth Jamaica, we are now developing ports in other Caribbean islands rich in stories of the past. As an 18th and 19th century historic port, Falmouth inspired us to retell great storylines of piracy and trade in the West Indies. We are now embarking on another real life Pirates of the Caribbean Destination in Tortuga.
I realize that, just as Walt Disney said his creations were a reflection of his 12 year old view of the world, I have carried and leveraged that childlike imagination with me all my life. When I visit these future cruise destinations in The British Virgin Islands and now Haiti, I looked for the 12 year old perspective and image; what it could be? In just the last few weeks it was verified that Christopher Columbus' ships, the Santa Maria, lies just off the coast of Haiti. It was found by a friend of mine, Barry Clifford, a true explorer and Pirate of the modern day. The wreck lies not far from our future cruise port, where it was lost on Christmas in 1492. The wreck occurred not long after after Columbus discovered Tortuga on December 6th 1492. I can stand on the beach today, as will our future guests, and image his fleet of three small vessels just of the island discovering the New World. Now that is an inspiring story for a cruise port destination!