(Originally published on Marketplace Excellence – Caribbean Report Newsletter, edited)
Cruise tourism has been a major contributor to national economies around the world for decades, creating jobs and bringing visitors who spend money locally. More recent trends include a focus on promoting health and safety, concerted efforts to enhance environmental sustainability and achieve carbon neutrality, and a commitment to destination stewardship and responsible tourism.
Over the next few weeks, we will share strategies for delivering excellent service to cruise tourists (as well as stayover visitors). Beth Hatt, the author, is the founder of Aquila Center for Cruise Excellence, the leading destination training provider for the global cruise industry, for providing an “insider’s” perspective. For more than 15 years, Aquila has been elevating the visitor experience through service excellence.
3. Culture clash?
Cruise ship passengers come from a wide variety of cultures, lifestyles, and backgrounds. Ensuring guest satisfaction includes being mindful of the cultural differences that may exist between guests and the locales they visit.
One reason people travel is a curiosity and desire to experience different cultures, so sharing local culture with cruise guests is appropriate and often welcomed. Front-line personnel should be prepared to explain any local terms, expressions, gestures or customs that are unique to the region. These exchanges should be conducted in a manner that is respectful and informative and that demonstrates an understanding of language barriers, should those exist. For example, a phrase may have a different meaning or connotation in another culture, so explaining those differences can be helpful for guests.
Everyone who interacts with guests should be attentive to these guidelines:
- Understand that there is no right or wrong cultural practice; there are only differences
- Attempt to dispel cultural misconceptions or myths
- Demonstrate respect with words and actions
- Respect personal space
- Patronize guests from any culture
- Make negative generalizations
- Act upon or spread cultural stereotypes
- Make potentially offensive comments on race, ethnicity, religion, lifestyle, age, or an individual’s physical or mental disability
- Promote one’s own beliefs
In an ideal world, destination representatives and the guests they welcome will demonstrate a mutual respect for cultural differences. Excellent service can go a long way toward encouraging visitors to be considerate of a destination’s natural resources and environment, to immerse themselves in the local culture, to sample local foods and beverages, and to support local vendors.
The role of tourism stakeholders is not to judge or stereotype others’ cultures, but to ensure that every visitor has an excellent experience, while helping to broaden guests’ understanding of and appreciation for the local culture.