Dona Regis-Prosper discusses why collaboration is key to growth in the Caribbean

The Caribbean Tourism Organization CEO tells Rebecca Gibson how the organisation is working with partners to drive the sustainable growth of the region’s burgeoning cruise market

Dona Regis-Prosper discusses why collaboration is key to growth in the Caribbean

By Rebecca Gibson |

Comprising more than 7,000 islands, cays and islets, the Caribbean is enduringly popular with travellers of all ages and retained its position as the world’s top cruise destination in 2023, according to statistics from the Cruise Lines International Association.  

In keeping with its ‘One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean’ motto, the Caribbean Tourism Organization aims to continue working with its members to capitalise on this popularity and facilitate future growth through improvements to infrastructure, service delivery, onshore experiences, environmental practices, and more. Dona Regis-Prosper, secretary general and CEO, shares more.  

What trends are emerging in the Caribbean cruise market?  

The Caribbean is witnessing a significant uptick in the arrival of larger cruise ships, exemplified by Royal Caribbean International’s new Icon of the Seas, which now calls at several islands in the Western and Eastern Caribbean. This expansion of itineraries signifies a positive shift, reflecting growing demand and enhanced accessibility. In parallel, there has been a notable emphasis on port and upland developments to enhance facilities and provide specialised services for these mega vessels.  

Furthermore, there has been a noticeable rise in homeporting, with Barbados hosting over 20 vessels, and territories such as Antigua and St. Maarten emerging as pivotal players in this burgeoning sector. 

Meanwhile, tourists are increasingly engaging in a broader spectrum of tours and excursions – from serene beach visits to immersive encounters with nature and engaging heritage tours. There has also been an upsurge in high-end cruise offerings tailored to the luxury market, underscoring the evolving dynamics of passenger preferences and the need for versatile and engaging cruise experiences. 

How do you expect the Caribbean cruise sector to evolve in 2024 and beyond? 

We’ll see a focus on five key areas: enhancing service delivery, developing onshore products, growing the luxury and mega vessel segments, diversifying options for the luxury market, and promoting sustainability and environmental standards.  

The Caribbean region is making a concerted effort to improve service delivery standards and expand the range of innovative onshore activities, excursions and amenities to deliver unique, memorable and diverse experiences that authentically showcase the Caribbean’s rich culture, nature and heritage. Similarly, there will be more options tailored to the nuanced preferences of high-end travellers looking for bespoke and exclusive experiences. 

Meanwhile, the CTO will support cruise lines and other members in promoting sustainability initiatives and moving towards environmentally responsible tourism. The alignment of the CTO’s efforts with the cruise industry’s objectives suggests there is potential for collaborative projects to enhance sustainability practices within the sector. 

What role will the CTO play in facilitating the sustainable growth of the Caribbean cruise industry? 

The CTO’s commitment to sustainable growth transcends any single sector to encompass the entire tourism industry. Through rigorous research, training programmes, sustainable product development practices and other initiatives, the CTO facilitates the comprehensive enhancement of the Caribbean’s tourism landscape, ensuring the benefits of sustainable practices are widespread and inclusive. 

We actively encourage the cruise industry to engage in these efforts too. Our collaborative and forward-thinking approach will ensure the long-term viability and allure of the Caribbean as a premier cruise destination. 

St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands

USVI Department of Tourism

Destinations such as St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands are enduringly popular with cruise lines

How are the CTO’s comprehensive training programmes helping stakeholders across Caribbean destinations to deliver safe and enjoyable cruise experiences? 

Training is a vital aspect of the CTO’s broader advocacy efforts to enhance the skills and capabilities of those working in the Caribbean tourism sector. Educational initiatives such as the CTO’s Leadership Skills Development Program foster growth and human capital development, reinforcing the region’s commitment to excellence and continuous improvement.  

The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association is a proud member of the CTO and discussions with the organisation highlighted that training is a pivotal area of collaboration. Together, we aim to ensure the region’s tourism workforce is well-prepared to meet the industry’s evolving demands. We invite cruise lines to participate in these initiatives and become members too. 

Why is collaboration between the CTO, cruise brands and other industry stakeholders key to future success?   

The Caribbean’s status as the leading global cruise destination provides a robust foundation for expanded collaboration between the CTO and cruise brands. This position allows for opportunities to extend beyond traditional customer and guest services, examining the broader economy and fostering vital linkages between agriculture, manufacturing and the cruise industry. There is immense potential to establish enduring connections within the sector and to convert transient cruise visitors into longer-term tourists. 

This period of dynamic growth presents a valuable opportunity to amplify engagement with the cruise sector more extensively than in the past. Now is an opportune moment to leverage the Caribbean’s premier status to foster deeper partnerships, pioneer innovative service delivery methods, and explore new avenues for economic integration that yield mutual benefits for the region and the wider cruise industry.  

Learn about the CTO’s tourism strategy, which was discussed at its April 2024 Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development in Grenada, on its website

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of  Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe  for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.  

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