As we see needs evolve and change, Aquila continues to build relevant new programs and customized training strategies for destinations and tour operators. In the first half of 2023, two FCCA partner destinations have continued to invest in long-term strategies that include everyone from their stakeholders to their frontlines: Puerto Rico Tourism Company and Cayman Islands Tourism Authority.

Gail Henry, Deputy Director, Tourism Product Development at Cayman Islands Dept of Tourism says “Cayman has been collaborating with 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. Beth and her team of trainers not only deliver excellent content, but also know how to connect with different types of stakeholders to affect this valuable knowledge transfer for the benefit of themselves and making their businesses more competitive.”    

From tour guide certification and tour operator designation, to frontline, vendor and driver specific training, the investments that FCCA partner destinations are making in their people are to be applauded. With all the training Aquila did through the pandemic, helping destinations and operators prepare for the return of cruise, and then through 2021 and 2022 to help the recovery, we have found there are a few consistent factors that will ensure continuous improvements in destinations: 

  1. Secret Shopping:

Mystery or secret shopping is an ideal way to improve and to make the necessary changes to keep products and services at the highest level. 

  • When was the last time you were on your own destination’s or tour operator’s tours?
    • When was the last time you walked around the pier or the town or visited attractions while cruise guests were visiting to see it through their eyes, to gauge the level of interest, the challenges, to see what works and what doesn’t?

Sometimes it is these site visits that help make things better and it is often small things that need to be tweaked to improve an experience. This costs little but your time!

  • Best Practices:

Have you travelled to another port destination with the purpose of seeing or experiencing first-hand how they handle ships, how they deliver tours and experiences, to see how things work with the dispatch, the vendors, the taxis? This may cost you more than just your time, yet you can learn so much from others. 

When was the last time you went on a cruise to see how other destinations perform? To experience how it feels to be a guest on a cruise in your own port? For the first time, Aquila will be hosting a Best Practice Mission in their ‘Living Lab’, in Saint John, Canada for the Puerto Rico Tourism team and ACE Designated tour operators. Crystal J. Bell, Air and Cruise Access Director at Puerto Rico Tourism Company says: 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.”

  • Ask Your Frontlines

Have you brought in your frontlines for a focus group to get their view on the challenges and opportunities? Your frontlines are the eyes and ears of your destination, and we often forget to ask them about what is happening in the center of the guest experience. This applies whether you are a tour operator who wants more information on your guests by asking your tour guides, or a destination who wants to better understand what guests are buying or complaining about, by asking your vendors, drivers or ambassadors. Asking your frontlines will not only give you a better understanding of the needs and challenges, but it will give you frontlines who feel heard. It is the people in your destination that make the biggest impact on guest satisfaction.

Many of your frontlines have been on cruises – what did they like and dislike? What did they see that they thought they could add in your destination?

 Let’s all embrace the philosophy of continuous improvement. No matter how great we are, we can always get better! “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Beth Kelly Hatt is the President of Aquila Center for Cruise Excellence, the FCCA’s official training partner who celebrated 40 years in business in 2022.  Contact Beth for more information about this FCCA Frontline program and other training at