My travels have continued with visits to San Juan for the annual Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) conference and to Asia/Pacific for company business.
The FCCA conference is always an intense affair because of the economic significance of the cruise industry to many of the island nations of the Caribbean basin. The focus of the meeting has evolved over time and this year the impact of the globalization of the industry was more evident than in the past. Although new ships still make their presence felt in the region (not the least of which being Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas), the growth of other cruise markets and the predominance of “homeport” cruises (i.e., cruises originating on the U.S. Coast that do not require air travel for many of the guests) have caused the number of cruise visitors to certain ports to decline quite dramatically. Many of these ports are to the south and southeast of San Juan. So it was important that the conference took place in San Juan. The government of Puerto Rico took advantage of the opportunity to restate its commitment to the cruise industry. They really put on an impressive showing from Governor Fortuno on down.
Just three days later I was off on the most demanding logistical trip I have taken in many years. I cannot blame anyone for this because I planned it! Arriving in Beijing on Sunday night, I was able to do business in Tianjin on Monday, Shanghai on Tuesday, Singapore on Wednesday and Sydney on Thursday. All it takes is 49 hours in the air and four overnight flights in seven nights.
The most noteworthy event was our press conference in Shanghai where Royal Caribbean and DreamWorks Animation teamed up to announce that Voyager of the Seas would offer the DreamWorks experience when she arrives in Asia next year. Kung Fu Panda was an enormously successful movie in China and in general the Chinese are enamored of the DreamWorks characters.
One of the striking aspects of my trip was the amount of time my colleagues and I devoted to the status of cruise infrastructure in the cities I visited. In Tianjin I visited the impressive new terminal. In Shanghai I visited Baoshan terminal which I blogged about last year when it was a construction site. Baoshan will be the homeport for Voyager of the Seas whereas the Shanghai International Cruise Center along the Bund will be the homeport for Legend of the Seas. In Singapore I toured the construction site that will become a signature homeport for today’s largest cruise ships. In Sydney we met with several officials of the New South Wales government to exchange ideas about how the limited cruise infrastructure there can evolve to accommodate the exciting growth of the Australian cruise market.
The trips to the other side of the world are very demanding to be sure. But they are also imperative. As in all regions of the world, the key players – government officials, port officials, media, travel agents – expect to see our most senior company officers from time to time. I am fortunate that Michael Bayley, our Executive VP, International, and our two Managing Directors, Dr. Zinan Liu for China/Asia and Gavin Smith for Australia, as well as our Country Director for Singapore, Jennifer Yap, do a great job representing the company. But I still need to do my 49 hours in the air to support their efforts, say hello to their teams and reinforce our messaging to the markets.
Not surprisingly I didn’t have time on this crazy trip to see any of my friends or my brother and his family in Japan. I try to fit in friends and family wherever possible. But there is always more going on than just the business part of the trip and my workouts. I was determined to do all of my back-reading of the Economist, a task so prodigious that flight attendants commented that I’m working too hard. The most spontaneous thing was when I walked into the New South Wales legislature’s building just as the head of the Legislative Council (upper house) was walking out. When I was introduced to him, he turned around and led me through a door right on to the floor of the Legislative Council while it was in session. We were sitting on a bench talking while his colleague was speaking from the podium about 20 feet away. Do any readers have any travel stories like that?