Martinique Highlights True Value of Locals’ Smiles
For nearly a decade in the French Caribbean island of Martinique, double-digit year-on-year increases in cruise visitation have continued to set new local records. In 2017-2018, 643,611 cruise passengers took in Martinique from 345 port calls, an increase of more than 40% over the previous season. The increase has principally been due to tourism infrastructure developments, improved cruise passenger welcome facilities, the diversification of activities available to cruisers and, especially, the natural and warm generosity typical of the Martinican people. Notably, in September of 2018, some of these efforts garnered the Grand Port Maritime (the country’s main port) second prize in the Port of the Year category of the Seatrade Cruise Awards and the Port Environment, Health and Safety Award from the Caribbean Shipping Association.
This year, to show deep appreciation for and pride in the work done thus far by all players in the Martinique cruise sector – individuals, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, transport operators, public institutions, cruise lines, other current tourism professionals and young future stakeholders – and, importantly, to keep the momentum going and maintain current levels of growth, the Martinique Tourism Authority has launched an ambitious awareness campaign. Called Martinique Vous Dit Merci (Martinique Says Thank You), it is designed to recognize the people of Martinique for their many years of hosting cruise passengers. It also serves to communicate the emerging confidence in Martinique by cruise companies that has made it such a Caribbean cruise darling, and enhance local understanding of the contribution that a booming cruise industry and a warm welcome can have on the economic development of the island.
This attention to passenger services and cruise port improvements, primarily around the Grand Port Maritime in the capital of Fort-de-France, that have truly helped the country turn the corner. They have helped showcase the island's sense of welcome and green-flagged it as a cruise destination of choice, particularly for Americans and Europeans, who constitute 24% and 65%, respectively, of cruisers to Martinique. Upgrades have included personalized information services upon arrival at the Tourelles and Pointe Simon Terminals, hostesses in Creole dress handing out maps and offering tips on how to spend a day in Martinique, uniformed taxi dispatchers assisting in finding transport, and even onshore musicians and dancers playing lively local tunes.
Tapping into this energetic push, the Martinique Tourism Authority's Martinique Vous Dit Merci campaign was launched to catch this year's cruise season, which runs until April.
The first phase has targeted local Martinicans of all ages and abilities, from market merchants and shop owners to taxi drivers and students, praising them for their hospitality in newspaper, radio and television ads, as well as social media posts, email newsletters and other digital channels. This is to be complemented by roadside billboards, ads on local bike services and on-screen promotions in movie theaters. A third element is dedicated programming broadcast on vià ATV, Martinique's most-watched private television channel; Lumina TV, a leading youth information media service in the overseas territories of France; RCI, an Antilles radio station; and other outlets.
The audio and video programming will also be central to future phases of the campaign that focus on recruiting new locals to the cruise-driven economy. The short videos and on-the-spot street interviews are hosted by two well-known media personalities in Martinique and are crafted to appeal to a young local audience and inform them about initiatives within the tourism sector, from closeups of stewards urbains (uniformed, multilingual street guides that greet and inform cruise visitors) and local boat transport captains to smiling fruit merchants. The next step will be to rally them to get involved in existing initiatives or even to imagine new ideas.
Martinique has a great deal to offer its visitors, including day-tripping cruise passengers. Whether their ships are berthed in the beautiful bays of Fort-de-France, Marin, Grande Anse, and Saint-Pierre, cruisers have a full menu of unique excursions from which to choose, such as touring world-class rum distilleries, tasting the thrilling blend of French-Caribbean flavors in celebrated gourmet restaurants, celebrating colorful cultural events and festivals, and exploring 435 square miles of mountainous terrain, dense tropical forests, crystal-clear rivers and idyllic beaches.