Expert: SPI has shot at cruise ships

Jay Lewis is president of Miami, Fla.-based MarketScope Inc., who recently formed SPI Cruise Group with other travel industry experts for the purpose of developing the Island as a port-of-call for cruise lines.

Specifically, the Island is envisioned as a stop for western Caribbean cruises, likely those leaving out of Galveston, which has a booming cruise industry. Lewis, an industry veteran, formed SPI Cruise Group with IDEA, a planning design firm currently at work on Port Grand Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island; industry consultant Cruise and Port Advisors; and Newman PR, which counts among its clients the Florida Keys tourism council and Carnival Cruise Lines.

Lewis made a compelling case to SPI’s municipal leaders, who signed on to a $100,000 expenditure to launch Phase 1, which will entail a sustained, aggressive marketing and communications campaign to get the attention of cruise industry executives. That effort will take place between now and mid-March, leading up to the Seatrade Global Cruise Conference taking place that month in Fort Lauderdale.

At that event, the cruise industry’s most important international conference, SPI representatives will be able to pitch the Island as a port-of-call to cruise industry executives.

“It is very much at the beginning stage,” Lewis said. “Right now, cruise lines are relatively unaware that South Padre Island exists. We’re not starting from square one. We’re starting from square zero.”

In addition to generating publicity for the Island, the next two and a half months will be spent actively pursuing meetings with cruise-line itinerary planners, the people who decide where the ships dock. SPI Cruise Group has an edge since all its members have industry connections built over many years, Lewis said.

“At least we’re not coming out of the blue,” he said. “We’re a known quantity. If we request a meeting, it’s a good bet they’ll sit down.”