AT the end of his first year directing the Falkland Islands Tourist Board, Managing Director Tony Mason shares the past year's accomplishments and a vision for the future.
We have had a turbulent yet positive year in tourism, he said, describing a year with cruise cancellations both politically and weather related. Focusing on the positive aspects of the year Mr Mason believes the Falklands are in a good place for the coming year. Our infrastructure is getting stronger, we are seeing investment in local establishments to improve their offerings, renovations to the Jetty Centre and the long awaited construction of the public toilets is well under way. All of these are building stones for our future success and we must keep moving forward.
2012 was the most successful year for land based tourism since records began with leisure tourist growing by 52% last season. In 2013 he anticipates greater numbers and increased cruise visits.
He said FITB had been informed that Crystal Cruises is planning a magical winter wonderland holiday with a new Antarctica Christmas/New Year's cruise. In addition to three days sailing Antarctic waters, the December 21, 2013 Buenos Aires-Valparaiso voyage aboard the award-winning Crystal Symphony sails through Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Falkland Islands, Drake Passage, Cape Horn, and the Chilean Fjords, with multiple excursions to the Antarctic continent.
Mr Mason believes for the tourist board to perform, a focused effort is essential to accelerate the drivers of tourism growth. This will see us improve workforce skills, visitor facilities at the Jetty Centre, the accessibility of Camp and better understand the changing needs of visitors and how best to attract them, particularly in emerging markets.
The tourist board will be sponsoring the Bird Fair in August and will be again taking the Falkland Islands to the world in November at World Travel Mart in London. The World Travel Mart WTM is a great opportunity for the Falkland Islands to get in front of the industry's finest trade professionals as well as more than 7,900 attending international buyers from the WTM Buyers' Club, he said.
He stresses: We all know the crucial importance of face-to-face meetings in business, so for the tourist board to exhibit and showcase the Falkland Islands to the world at this event is crucial to our forward moving plans. Further building relationships with key players is paramount to our success.
Mr Mason plans include reaching out to emerging markets over the next few years: We are predicting major growth to come from China, Middle East, India and other Asian markets by 2016. China alone is expected to account for 20 per cent of tourism worldwide due to increasing prosperity. We cannot avoid these markets, as they are the markets of the future.
The Falkland Islands has already been approved by the Chinese Government as an approved destination and we look to build a strong profile over the next few years to establish a destination presence for Chinese tourist and understanding the offering that we need to make available.
Later next year the tourist board will also be attending the Arabian Travel Mart in Dubai.
The past year has been a great year for me personally. I think everyone knows I have really enjoyed moving to the Falkland Islands, settling in and calling Stanley home. The local people have been supportive of our initiatives at the tourist board and I am very grateful to have had a supportive Board of Directors and I'd like to publically thank the Chairman of our Board the Honorable Mike Summers, MLA for his past and continued support of tourism in the Falkland Islands. It's been a pleasure working with everyone this year. (PN)