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ST. THOMAS — In a phone interview with The Consortium on Thursday evening, current West Indian Company President and CEO, Joseph Boschulte, whose contract the WICO Board of Directors decided at Seatrade last week not to renew, said his departure from the port conjured mixed emotions.
“It’s clearly mix emotions. We’ve accomplished a lot, did some really, really great things with the WICO team. We had some very big accomplishments: For the first time in WICO’s history, we were able to negotiate three long-term agreements with three separate cruise corporations, and we put over $20 million worth of infrastructure repairs at the dock itself, which derives the lion’s share of the revenues for our company, and the lion’s share of cruise revenues for the territory.” WICO is the territory’s most trafficked port of call.
Mr. Boschulte also mentioned ongoing construction work at the Havensight Mall, which is a collaboration between WICO and GERS — the latter entity being the owner of the mall.
“Anytime you’ve grown with a group of employees that work hard to achieve accomplishments, when that time comes to close the page on that chapter and move to the next one, you look back and reflect on the good times, and the times where you had to huddle and work as a team to overcome some objectives and difficulties,” he said. “But with that, as a new chapter begins come May 1, clearly I’m looking forward to the next chapter as I continue my career.”
Mr. Boschulte also clarified that while the “definitive” decision to not renew his contract did happen at this year’s Seatrade Global event in Florida during a board meeting, as reported by The Consortium, discussions with the board had been ongoing for months.
“For the past few months we’ve had dialogues about the separation, so it did not just happen one day where the board said, ‘Okay Joe, here’s the plan,” Mr. Boschulte said. “I think everybody wanted to make sure that the separation was amicable. Clearly, the board felt that it was time for a new choice.” He said both he and the board wanted to make sure that the announcement did not come as a surprise because they did not want to send the wrong signal to stakeholders.
“I am very sensitive to our stakeholders, particularly the cruise lines and retailers, because people really want to understand what does this mean, and what can it mean to our business. And I think by allowing to have this type of transition that is not confrontational, hopefully sends the right message, and the message that we’re trying to send is that this is a move, hopefully, WICO stays on target to continue to build cruise business and instead of Joe Boschulte steering the ship, it will be somebody else. But at least for the short-term I’ll be there to add assistance.”
Mr. Boschulte said the idea, especially for stakeholders, was to assure them that even if there were changes coming to WICO, the port’s current leadership was still working on important negotiations, and that agreements already in place would not be affected.
“I think a reflection of that was last week,” Mr. Boschulte said, referring to Seatrade. “We had two very, very good meetings with cruise lines after we had the board meeting.” He said the meetings with the cruise lines — which also included at least two board members — centered around adding more calls at WICO.
Mr. Boschulte has a 90-day consultant agreement with WICO to facilitate a smooth transition for whomever is chosen to replace him. He said of utmost importance to him is that the territory does not lose ground to other ports of call as the transition from one CEO to the next occurs — pointing to the heightened competitiveness of the cruise industry as reason enough to keep innovation coming.
“A lot of our neighbors have definitely honed their game in the five years that I’ve been at WICO, and expectations should be for us, on a macro level, that we clearly have to continue to focus on building our cruise product on all three islands — St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John — to make sure that we stay attractive,” he said.
Mr. Boschulte said he has always held to the belief that cruises and the territory’s overnight products compliment each other. “It shouldn’t be a zero-sum game,” he said, adding that as the territory continues to build on its cruise business, the overnight business stands to benefit, and vice versa.
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