The cruise landscape is always changing. With new competition, traveler trends, and even regulations, comes the growth of new ports. But the charge to engage these new ports as opposed to those tried and true isn’t without its challenges. So, how do companies ensure that everyone involved comes away happy for years to come?
Here, Liz Gammon, general manager at TVG Travel in Iceland dishes on her keys to new port success, and gives us a preview of the program, New Ports and Destinations: Get Out There; Get Noticed; but Above All, GET READY!
What are some of the challenges cruise companies face in selecting a new port?
Any number, really, ranging from logistical to operational and everything in between. A cruise line needs to work out how they are going to sell a new port, especially if no one has heard of it. How do you sell a destination when no one knows about it and the name has no previous association with travel or cruise?
Another obstacle is whether adding a new port will negatively impact the line’s revenue for that particular cruise. For example, what kind of shore excursion revenue can they expect? Do they risk losing revenue opportunities going to a new port versus another more established one?
A new port might tick all of the required boxes when it comes to the accommodating the vessel—length of the pier, fenders, draft, etc. But is there adequate shore excursion capacity available to accommodate the ship’s passengers on tour?
The list of challenges is actually quite extensive, but with good communication all of these challenges are surmountable. The good thing is that all of these issues (and more!) will be tackled during our conference session.
As a tour operator, what are you looking for in a relationship with a cruise company?
First and foremost, I’m looking for a respectful partnership. The relationship has to be one of a mutual goal, focused on delivering an excellent experience ashore whilst being financially viable for all of the partners involved. And the need for two-way communication and responsiveness is key!
In order to deliver the best possible experience for the cruise line and their passengers, I need to know that my emails will be answered in a timely manner and that pertinent information is shared. This means that I too can work in timely manner and address any concerns or road blocks should they arise. I also appreciate working with a cruise line that is reasonable, practical and consultative – not every port is the same. Let’s brainstorm together! Give me all the feedback—not only if something didn’t go to plan. Share the love.
And finally, on time payment. I have to pay the guides and suppliers and if I have a good payment record with my vendors, you’ll get the best they can offer every time!
Do you have any quick tips for cruise lines seeking successful calls at new ports?
It’s vital to engage the local people and encourage friendly interactions from everyone—guides and drivers to the port gate staff to the local shopkeepers, restaurateurs, etc. Engage local government too, and make sure they are committed to helping ensure a good experience for guests. Ports that typically score well with guests are those that go the extra mile in sharing and showcasing their local culture by welcoming guests with music, dance, etc.
Get the local community on your side—involve them from the very beginning and include them in your plans. Share information and keep a dialogue going in the lead up to a cruise call. Be committed to creating a positive vibe around a new call and get your local community excited.
What trends do you see creating the most change in port stops in the next three to five years?
Fuel is undoubtedly going to have a huge effect in itinerary planning, namely MGO (marine gasoil) versus LNG (liquified natural gas). I also think that we are going to be hearing a lot more on the subject of ‘impact’ – both environmentally and with regard to the volume of cruise ship guests and their impact on local communities.
Lastly, as destinations look to implement more sustainable approach to tourism in general, I think we will see the Expedition Cruise sector implementing operational changes, primarily with regard to unscheduled zodiac landings and touring.
What aspect of Seatrade 2019 are you most excited about?
Where to begin?! Alongside being super excited at the prospect of introducing our travel brand TVG Travel and Iceland as a destination to newcomers to the show, I’m also looking forward to seeing good friends and colleagues that I have worked with for many, many years, and having the opportunity to network. I know I speak for many when I say that Seatrade Global is more than just a conference and trade show. For me it’s like a huge, extended family gathering and needless to say, one that I look forward to every year. The fact that in 2019 we are going to back in Miami is the cherry on that hotly anticipated reunion cake!