Political pressure on organisers of the Seatrade South America convention held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last week meant the Falkland Islands was ignored during discussions as a tourist destination in the region.
Falkland Islands Tourist Board (FITB) Managing Director Tony Mason, who attended Seatrade along with FITB Tourism Assistant Steph Middleton and Sulivan Shipping Services Ltd Tourism Coordinator Sammy Marsh, said he was, “disappointed,” that the organisers had given in to pressure from the Argentine Tourism Authority.
He told Penguin News: “It's difficult for the convention to accurately evaluate the benefits to the South American cruise tourism industry without taking note of us.”
Mr Mason said he felt strongly the Seatrade organisers should hold their events in countries that are neutral to any political pressures between countries.
“All of the countries involved in the cruise tourism industry are important and no one should be excluded or ignored. Figures given at the conference could not be accurate without the Falkland Islands tourism initiatives included.”
He said FITB had productive meetings at the event, “which was why we were there in the first place,” but criticised, “imposed restrictions against attendees.”
He and Mrs Middleton had been approached by Seatrade staff at the event and asked that they, “keep quiet,” about being from the Falkland Islands, as organisers feared protests, “if word got out we were there.”
Mr Mason said: “I was put off by this as we met so many Argentine people at the event who welcomed us and actually went out of their way to be friendly towards us.”
Despite the pressures, encouraging meetings took place between FITB and Princess Cruises as well as with Royal Caribbean said Mr Mason.
He also noted that the event was, “OK but not as good as other Seatrade events. I found the attendance a bit low and with less than expected exhibitors.
“The conference on tourism in South America was the first on the agenda and I enjoyed hearing what other countries in the region were doing in relation to cruise tourism.”
Miss Marsh said she found the convention useful for meeting Sulivan Shipping Services clients, adding that attendance was, “imperative to understand what the future holds for South American cruising.”
She said the three key issues repeated constantly were: cost, infrastructure and integration of the region.
“Ports in South America are the most expensive in the world, and the region needs to work together in order to reduce costs, improve infrastructure and to be in a position to compete with the northern hemisphere,” Miss Marsh explained.
She said Chile had worked hard to reduce costs and lift restrictions in order to win back some of the cruise ship companies. Chile won an award at the conference from Seatrade for their efforts.
Miss Marsh said: “Unfortunately no country in South America, including the Falkland Islands is a destination on its own, so integration and working together to make the region appealing to cruise lines is very important.” (PN)