September 1, 2015
Interview with Tony Boemi, President of Cruise the Saint Lawrence
Destination Saint Lawrence continues to gain in popularity. Destination novelty and diversity of passenger offerings combine to enhance the attractiveness of Québec-based cruises as evidenced by ever growing numbers of cruise passengers stopping in at cruise ports across the province. To better appreciate destination attractiveness and ongoing growth, we sat down with Tony Boemi, President of Cruise the Saint Lawrence and VIce President, Growth and Development at Port of Montréal.
- To begin, could you tell readers a little about Cruise the Saint Lawrence?
Cruise the Saint Lawrence was born in 1999 of the desire of a number of Québec ports to group together and provide international cruise lines with a destination unto its own. Today, Destination Saint Lawrence is indeed just that and boasts nine diverse ports of call spread out along the shores of the Saint Lawrence. As members of Cruise the Saint Lawrence, regional partners involved in the international cruise sector are able to gain invaluable notoriety by speaking with one voice and placing the emphasis on the destination as a whole. The association is also the privileged intermediary for government partners.
Our ultimate aim to provide exposure for Destination Saint Lawrence - our ports of call in particular - on the world stage and, in so doing, to attract ever greater numbers of cruise passengers.
- How long have you been president of Cruise the Saint Lawrence?
I have served in the capacity of president for just over a year in what continues to prove an experience as interesting as it is exhilarating. We deal with a broad spectrum issues ranging from marketing to port development, and from passenger greeting operations to intervention with government authorities.
- What are the challenges currently facing Cruise the Saint Lawrence?
Our Saint Lawrence ports of call have grown significantly over the past ten years. It is now important that we manage this growth properly and ensure that each member port of call offers incomparable passenger greeting experiences at all times, as well as efficient facilities and levels of service consistent with cruise line and cruise passenger expectations.
Our ports are particularly busy in September and October, with multiple arrivals in the same port now commonplace. It is important that the ports concerned provide the same quality offerings to all ships. It is equally important that we showcase our varied and extensive range of summer offerings to inspire cruise lines to schedule visits to our shores throughout the season from May to October, without interruption. It is also important that we position ourselves soundly given ever increasing competition from Asian destinations. Destination Saint Lawrence must continue to assert itself and enhance market share in the highly competitive sector within which we operate.
- What are your goals for your term as president?
Cruise the Saint Lawrence has drawn up a greeting policy for all member ports of call. Through this tool, we aim to provide the best cruise passenger greeting experience in the world by 2016. During my term as president, I would like to assist member ports of call in achieving this goal and obtaining cruise line recognition for the quality of our passenger greeting operations.
Also, I wish to step up cooperation with the Cruise Canada New England Alliance. In so doing, it is my desire to enhance overall destination exposure and promote summer season opportunities.
As a destination, we must also revisit our priorities. If, at the outset, we needed to focus on developing cruise passenger offerings at member ports of call, we now need to boost marketing and development efforts with cruise line operators.
- Which new markets are of interest to Destination Saint Lawrence?
The European market is booming and we are intent upon tapping into enhanced European demand, especially in light of the wealth of attributes that our ports of call have to offer travellers. Also, we are certain that we can draw more families to Destination Saint Lawrence given the breadth of attractions, festivals aplenty and our discerning blend of French and English culture. In summer in particular, we could welcome Disney, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line which cater to younger audiences certain to delight in the numerous festivals on offer in our more urban ports and marine mammal observation opportunities in more outlying ports in Eastern Québec.
Our destination could also draw theme cruises. Our tourism supply is well developed and includes numerous attractions and festivities which could be readily aligned along jazz, religious heritage and LGBT themes.
- In terms of greeting operations, how do Cruise the Saint Lawrence and member ports of call aim to differentiate themselves from other world destinations?
Our primary strength most certainly lies in member port diversity which makes for cruise itineraries capable of satisfying the expectations of a broad spectrum of audiences. While Montréal offers an urban experience focusing on cultural creativity and fine food appreciation, Québec woos cruise passengers with its decidedly European flavour and proximity to the great outdoors. While Trois-Rivières charms visitors time and again as a venue of human dimension, Saguenay steals visitor hearts with the region's legendary welcoming ways. While the personality of Baie-Comeau is shaped by glacial action dating back to the last ice age, Sept-Îles features an out-of-the-ordinary Inuit experience in the finest of First Nations traditions. While Havre-Saint-Pierre impresses with the giant monoliths of Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Gaspé basks in the fame of the celebrated rock at Percé. Then there are the Magdalen Islands which boast kilometre upon kilometre of beaches and mouthwatering seafood as fresh as it comes.
Additionally, the desire of our nine ports of call to provide incomparable greeting experiences and to treat visitors to the best of regional attributes are strengths which enable us to differentiate ourselves from ports of call elsewhere in the world.
- How do local communities view the advent of cruise ships to their shores?
Port of call development has contributed handsomely to the diversification of our tourism supply and expansion of a number of local economies. Readers will bear in mind that the majority of passengers hail from abroad. Their visits therefore inject fresh money into the local economies and contribute to extending the tourism season. For many ports of call, the advent of international cruise ships has made it possible to enhance the local tourism supply while providing exposure to international audiences to which they would otherwise not enjoy access. Local communities therefore view action on our behalf and annual increases in cruise passenger numbers in a highly favourable light.
- If you could have two wishes, what would they be for Destination Saint Lawrence?
I sincerely hope that we achieve our goal of providing the best cruise passenger greeting experience in the world by 2016 and that action in this regard will merit cruise line recognition for efforts devoted by member ports of call and communities to enhance our global service offer.
I also would like to succeed in convincing as many cruise lines as possible that Destination Saint Lawrence is a full-fledged cruise destination capable of drawing individuals of all ages in the period from May to October without interruption. In achieving these goals, I could proudly claim to have successfully fulfilled my term as president of Cruise the Saint Lawrence