(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.
Our first installment below will present some basic points about how cruise passenger experiences impact cruise line operations and the destinations they visit.
1. Cruise industry fundamentals
Our series on service excellence in cruise tourism begins by covering some basics of the industry.
When conducting training in destinations throughout the Caribbean, trainers from Aquila Center for Cruise Excellence ensure that participants understand the fundamental facts about cruise industry operations.
For example, stakeholders, tour operators, and front-line personnel need to know that the cruise industry has remained the fastest growing sector in the leisure travel market; enhanced protocols have been implemented to ensure the health and safety of guests, crew members, and the communities cruise ships visit; and many cruise ship passengers use port calls as a way to “sample” destinations before choosing to return for a stayover visit.
Shore excursions are offered to cruise ship passengers, allowing them to disembark and experience the locales included on the ship’s itinerary. These excursions are one of the top revenue generators for cruise lines. Hence, shore excursion programs with strong ticket sales and favorable guest reports represent a positive business case for the ship to continue to call on the port.
At the same time, it is also critical for guests who choose to explore a destination on their own to have a “Wow!” experience as this also contributes to high destination ratings.
Cruise ship visitors want their in-destination experiences to be engaging, interactive and fun; to encourage them to learn and grow; to facilitate making personal connections with locals; to present opportunities for Instagram-worthy bragging rights; and to promote health and wellness. In addition, these elements need to be delivered with a level of professionalism, service, friendliness, and attention that exceeds each guest’s expectations.
It goes without saying that providing excellent service to every visitor is essential for solidifying a destination’s relationship with its cruise line partners. Every person in a destination who connects with a guest has an opportunity to make an impact on that visitor’s experience and what he or she remembers – and shares – about the destination.
Cruise lines will continue to call on ports where their passengers can expect excellent service and memorable experiences. Success breeds success, so if guest satisfaction ratings are strong and cruise ship revenue goals from shore excursions are met, the cruise lines will continue to come back for more.