FCCA Travel and Cruise Magazine – 3rd Quarter 2023

Strategies for Success in Raising the Level of Excellence in Your Destination

Developing strategic plans to reach goals is a common practice of successful destinations and businesses. Whether you are looking to increase overall visitation, number of cruise calls, or guest satisfaction ratings, strategic plans serve as a roadmap to those goals. In recent years, Aquila has been working with cruise destinations to implement long-term training strategies to support those goals. Here, we’ll share three long-term training strategies we have developed with destinations to help support their goals, with great results.

  1. Strategic Focus: Port Analysis & Strategic Growth

Several destinations have multiple cruise ports at different stages of cruise readiness and experience delivery, and these destinations need strategies to support each cruise port in their growth and success. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is one such destination, and they have been working with Aquila for several years, determining the needs of each port of call and responding to those needs with a relevant and prioritized long-term training strategy. For example, in the popular port of San Juan, training has been focused on improving the experience for their guests and their cruise line clients, with a particular focus on service. They have implemented a strategy that includes training for their Frontlines, Tour Guides, Tour Operators and Service Providers, in a way that consistently builds on previous training and responds to the needs in the destination. Additionally, in the developing ports of Ponce, Boquerón, Vieques and Culebra, strategies have been developed for each port of call, including training around cruise readiness, product development, and more.

This approach has proven very successful for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, as Crystal Bell, Air and Cruise Access Director, recently explained: “For almost a decade, our fruitful partnership with Aquila has been a cornerstone to ensure service excellence in Puerto Rico’s cruise industry. The trainings offered by Beth and her amazing team have made a measurable difference: improving our port ratings and bolstering desirability of our destination in the context of the Caribbean, the industry’s most competitive area. We are eager to continue this partnership for years to come.”

The guest experience and the level of service provided to cruise lines and their guests are critical factors for a cruise destination to be successful. Cayman Islands Department of Tourism recognized this and worked with Aquila to develop a long-term training strategy to raise their level of excellence in service and satisfaction levels. This strategy has included extensive service excellence training for their Frontlines, Tour Guides, Tour Operators and Service Providers. They have also included additional training for their Tour Operators and Service Providers to encourage and support successful operations and product development opportunities, and their Tour Guides were offered training in Storytelling to help them bring their history and culture to life for their guests.

“The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism has been collaborating with the Aquila Center for Cruise Excellence for the past few years to upskill our cruise tourism stakeholders with concurrent knowledge of customer service excellence, tour operations, tour guiding, storytelling, and other key elements of providing unforgettable wow experiences.” – Gail Henry, Deputy Director of Tourism Product Development, Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

  • Strategic Focus: Product Analysis & Improvement

The tours and experiences provided to cruise guests in a destination have a significant impact on guest satisfaction ratings, and it is important to ensure the tourism product is meeting or exceeding the expectations of the cruise lines and their guests. Looking to better understand the opportunities and potentially improve their tourism product, Tourism Trinidad Limited worked with Aquila to conduct a cruise product analysis, including identifying opportunities and making recommendations for product improvements and innovations. The process included research, surveys, interviews, and a site visit by the Aquila team, and resulted in a thorough report with recommended action plans and priorities which will inform the next phases of the strategy. 

“On behalf of the team here in Trinidad I must thank you for such a comprehensive review of our cruise tourism product.  The report is very insightful and it gives me a great deal of excitement at the opportunities identified to enhance our product offering… I truly look forward to the next phase of this project!” – Carla Cupid, Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Trinidad Limited

At Aquila, we are thrilled to be working with such forward-thinking destinations who are developing long-term training strategies to support their goals and their success. If you would like to explore a training strategy customized for your destination, please reach out – we’re ready to work with you to raise the level of success in your destination!

Beth Kelly Hatt is the President of Aquila’s Center for Cruise Excellence, the FCCA’s official training partner. Aquila’s approach to training is one of assessing the needs of a destination or operator and developing a strategic training plan that helps raise the level of excellence throughout the destination. Contact Beth for more information at Beth@CruiseExcellence.com

Aquila celebrated 40 Years in 2022 as a tour operator in Port Saint John, Canada and over 15 years as a trainer and coach for the cruise industry.