The creation of the Montreal Cruise Committee, the appoint-ment of a representative in Europe to market Montreal as a cruise destination, and continued involvement in the St. Lawrence Cruise Association are paying huge dividends for the Port of Montreal’s cruise business.

Thanks to this structured approach to developing the cruise industry in Montreal, the port expects to welcome a record 55,500 cruise ship passengers, along with some 28,000 crew members, over the course of 55 vessel calls in 2012. That’s up significantly from the 35,000 to 40,000 passengers that the port has welcomed during a typical cruise season.

“In the cruise sector, we have created a dynamic partnership with the community,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority. “It’s not just the port that is working to attract cruises, but all of the associations and organizations tied to economic development and tourism in Montreal.

“It’s the community as a whole that benefits economically from the success of the cruise sector.”

To further develop the cruise business, the Montreal Port Authority has teamed up with the City of Montreal, Tourism Montreal, the Old Port of Montreal Corporation, Aéroports de Montréal (Montreal airports), the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal, with the support of Tourism Quebec, to create the Montreal Cruise Committee.

“The idea is to engage the community in the cruise industry,” said Tony Boemi, Vice-President of Growth and Development for the Montreal Port Authority.

“We need to ensure that we have the facilities for passengers to embark or disembark, the opportunities for them to stay an extra day or two before or after their cruise to take advantage of the city, and the logistics to allow them to fly into the city or back home as easily as possible.

“You have to put the whole package together – the technical advantages of the port, the transportation network, tourism opportunities and hotels. The committee allows us to pool all our advantages and experiences so that we can put together the best possible cruise experience for our passengers coming into Montreal.”

As a start, the Montreal Cruise Committee is targeting European cruise lines. To that end, it has hired well-known shipping agency Medov, based in Genoa, Italy,  with offices in Paris, to market Montreal as a cruise destination to lines and the travel trade in Europe.

“The European lines have the right-sized vessels – excursion vessels – to sail to Montreal, given air-draft restrictions on the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and Montreal,” Mr. Boemi said. “Our representative is developing those cruise lines, and this is something that is very positive.”

Meanwhile, one of Montreal’s longtime major cruise lines will be adding vessel calls during the 2012 season. “This reflects the efforts of the port in partnership with the St. Lawrence Cruise Association, with whom we work very closely,” Mr. Boemi said.

The St. Lawrence Cruise Association markets the St. Lawrence and its ports on the whole as a cruise destination to cruise lines and the travel trade.

Another business strategy is to lengthen Montreal’s cruise season. The majority of cruise ship visits to Montreal now occur in autumn, to take advantage of the fall foliage season.

“We have worked with one line to bring in vessels on a regular basis during the month of July,” Mr. Boemi said. “We want to prolong the season. We want to develop thematic cruises. We want to promote the festivals in Montreal – basically everything that happens over the course of a normal Montreal summer.”

In 2011, the port welcomed 38,031 passengers, down 5.3 per cent from the previous year, over the course of 23 cruise ship calls.

“With the work we’ve done with the St. Lawrence Cruise Association and the results we’ve started to see through the Montreal Cruise Committee, we have probably increased our baseline to about 45,000 passengers,” Mr. Boemi said.

Meanwhile, Montreal continues to be recognized internationally as an award-winning cruise port. Renowned magazine Dream World Cruise Destinations honoured the port for its cruise operations for a third consecutive year in 2011. The port won the Most Efficient Terminal Operator award, which pays tribute to the most efficiently managed and operated cruise terminals in terms of customs clearance, security, supplying, baggage handling and all services to ships and passengers.

The port also won for the second consecutive year the Best Turnaround Destination award, which recognizes cruise destinations that offer passengers a superior welcome in terms of excellent transfer service to airports and train stations, a broad array of hotels and a great variety of tourist attractions.

The Montreal Port Authority is cur-rently studying the potential costs related to the improvement or modernization of its Iberville Passenger Terminal, where the vast majority of cruise ships dock in Montreal.