July 16, 2012
James Wannell: A true gentleman !
On the occasion of the Cruise Canada New England Symposium held at Québec in mid-June, we had the pleasure of speaking with James N. Wannell, European-based trade commissioner for the Montréal Cruise Committee. We took advantage of our meeting to ask him a few questions and learn a little more about his work with cruise lines.
- To begin with, could you enlighten readers on the Montréal Cruise Committee?
This committee, made up of nine Montréal area partners, seeks to bolster the volume of cruiseshippers calling in to port at Montréal. Set up in 2011, the committee works actively to market Montréal as a point of departure/arrival par excellence with cruise lines and to diversify the local tourist supply for cruise operators.
- What role do you play on this committee?
My role focuses on the development of the European cruise market for Montréal which involves entertaining regular contact with cruise company owners in Europe. This portfolio of clients, spread out geographically from Finland to Cyprus, includes some thirty different companies.
My job is to make known to this community of owners, the numerous attributes of Montréal as a destination, the quality of the city's international airport, the technical capacity of the port, as well as the extent of services available to cruise ship passengers once they step ashore.
- For how long have you been involved in the cruise industry?
I have been working in the cruise sector for some fifteen years now, and in the general tourism sector for a total of 35 years. I began my career in ship and cargo management, and my international career has resulted in extensive travel. For the purpose of economic development, it is important that I cast a critical eye on the quality of air carriers, airports, hotel greeting services, infrastructure and general destination attributes. The points of convergence between industrial maritime activities and cruise operations are numerous. In both instances, it is necessary to have a port technically capable of accommodating ships at reasonable cost, seamless ground logistics to provide for efficient cargo transfer, and, of course, port city policies and institutions designed to promote and spawn economic benefits for the community at large.
- What about your work motivates you?
My motivation is to promote a first-rate product led by a first-rate team, and to share the same enthusiastic ambitions with the other Montréal Cruise Committee partners.
- In your opinion, which Montréal attributes are important to cruise lines and cruise travel companies?
Allow the professional traveller speak, if only briefly. I often reiterate to my clients: it is important to receive a warm welcome and that begins upon arrival at Montréal-Trudeau International Airport. Hence we immediately stand out from other destinations. For our US cousins, we represent an exotic metropolitan experience which has the merit of being located only a short distance north of the Canada-US border. To them, Montréal is a voyage into culture and gastronomy devoid of the high cost of long distance air travel. For Europeans, Montréal offers a strikingly different take on the seemingly familiar visual apparent upon arrival, only to reveal a singular architectural blend of Old Europe and contemporary North America.
The richly diverse mélange of cultural activities, breadth of fine food offerings, and the safe, secure environment for individuals keen on discovering the city on foot are all major attributes. That being said, it is important not to overlook one other key drawing card, namely the city's human capital: Montréalers, as the locals are known, are ever welcoming and eager to lend visitors a hand!
For ship owners, two factors combine to provide Montréal with one formidable advantage: the ability to drop anchor in the heart of the old city while enjoying proximity to the province's leading international airport. This twofold advantage greatly facilitates logistics for embarking and disembarking passengers.
And lastly, if you will allow me to muse as a food lover, this 'Pearl of the Saint Lawrence' as I like to describe the city to clients in Europe, is a plat de résistance enhanced by the other Destination Saint Lawrence ports of call which are as different as they are complementary.
- What is your favourite activity for cruiseshippers stopping in at Montréal?
My biggest pleasure would be to wander about the old city, to immerse myself in the history and the ambience, to visit the markets, to find a terrace where I can stop and sip on a coffee, to visit museums and art galleries, and then to find a restaurant where I can sit down and enjoy regional gastronomic fineries with friends.
- Are there any development projects in the making for cruiseshippers stopping in at Montréal ?
Montréal is brimming with projects, from festivals to exhibitions to new restaurants. There is always so much for visitors to see. Hence cruise lines are demonstrating ever increasing interest in the city as a destination.
- What are your hopes for the upcoming tourist season?
That financial uncertainty in Europe and the United States be serenely put to rest and backed by meaningful political action, because uncertainty is something that consumer markets cannot abide! And one thing is for certain: the cruise sector is consumer-market dependent. I would also like to see ongoing commitment to the safeguarding of our natural heritage because the latter represents an attribute which draws all manner of tourists to Montréal and the majestic Saint Lawrence.
James Wannell, I am certain that the entire cruise industry would concur with your observations. Many thanks for taking the time to share these thoughts with us.