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June 6, 2006

Young and active cruise passengers!

Rimouski, June 6, 2006 - The Saint Lawrence Cruise Association (SLCA) hosted the 8th Canada / New England Cruise Symposium at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal from May 16 to 18.

With its theme of BUILDING DESTINATIONS / SELLING EXPERIENCES, this Symposium enabled its 130 participants to hear the twenty guest speakers talk about the latest trends and recent developments in the industry.  One of the speakers, the President of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), presented data showing that there have been major changes in the profile of clients in the international cruise market:

More than 80% of cruise passengers come from North America and they are increasingly young, active and financially better off.  The average age is 49 but 68% of the members of Generation X (those born after 1960) contact travel agents with the firm intention of taking a cruise.  The figures for 2005 show that there were more than 11 million passengers around the world and that forecasts for 2006 suggest an increase of 500,000 passengers.  Over the last 25 years, demand has continued to grow by 8% annually and, for the first time, it will exceed supply with an occupancy rate of 103% in 2006!

In response to this growth and the industry’s success, the cruise lines will launch six new ships in 2006 and they will be bigger than ever.  For example, the Freedom of the Seas, which was launched recently, carries 3,600 passengers.

Several other speakers provided some very interesting messages, including a Vice-President of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, who explained to his audience the process of deploying ships and the strong competition currently offered by Europe and the Mediterranean.  Questions of marine safety, tourist excursions and the potential of the Canada / New England destination to attract passengers were also discussed.

The Symposium also covered the question of the position of the Saint Lawrence and more specifically its growth potential as an international cruise destination.  In asking Will the Saint Lawrence become the new Alaska of the East? the speakers clearly showed that we did not need to compare ourselves with that destination but rather to create a position focused on our strengths and our differences.  The uniqueness of the Saint Lawrence, with the presence on its banks of lively towns of great renown, wide open spaces and provision for open-air tourism, offers an undeniable power of attraction that the cruise lines are increasingly recognizing.  In this context, the introduction of new stopovers such as the Saguenay and Baie-Comeau to the itineraries offered by Princess Cruise Line, Holland America, V. Ships, Crystal Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines shows the need to provide new regional destinations.

The President of the Saint Lawrence Cruise Association, Martine Bélanger, shares the view expressed by the speakers who urged these new destinations to show caution and to co-operate closely and in a structured manner to ensure that the new offers and promotions developed by the stopover points would be ready and would he expectations of the cruise lines and their passengers.  “Sometimes you need more than three years to sell a new stopover to a cruise line.  Once the decision-makers see that there is interest, you then have to deliver the goods”, Ms. Bélanger said.

The development of new stopovers on the Saint Lawrence will benefit all stakeholders in Quebec.  “It’s the shopping-centre principle where, with good positioning and sound promotion, all the stores (stopovers) can benefit at some point from the traffic that is created”, Ms. Bélanger added.

René Trépanier, Executive director
Telephone: 418 725 0135

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