With over 100 new ocean going cruise ships on order, I’ve heard it said that since the world is over 70% ocean, there’s plenty of space. Of course it’s true, cruise ships need water, but equally as important, they need ports and destinations. No matter how exciting each new ship is, the question everyone asks before booking is, “where does it go?”
Ships on order range in size from 100 passenger expedition vessels to 6000 passenger mega-ships, with everything in between. This means that there are tremendous opportunities and challenges for all ports and destinations throughout the world. The smaller vessels will seek out new, undiscovered locations, but no matter how small a destination, they will still need some type of infrastructure to receive these new visitors, and help them experience what their destination has to offer. The giant ships of course have their own port needs, not just technically, but also being able to receive and disburse their visitors, without making people feel like they are constantly in a crowds.
Speaking of crowds, the big story we keep hearing about is over-tourism and over-crowding in many destinations. Cruise ships are still a very small percentage of the worldwide tourism market, but cruise lines are probably working harder than most providers with many destinations to come up with solutions to distribute their visitors. The problem isn’t usually the total number of visitors at a destination, but how they are distributed. The idea is that you wouldn’t want everyone to end up at the same place at the same time. With creative collaboration and planning between cruise lines, destinations and tour operators, many of the effects of the volume of cruise visitors can be mitigated.
Today’s cruise visitors are also looking for different experiences than in the past. When I first started in this business, the biggest selling point of a tour was if it was on an air-conditioned bus. Today’s cruisers want authentic experiences that truly reflect the destinations they visit. Destinations and tour operators must continuously challenge themselves to keep their products fresh, and give visitors the chance for interactive experiences, so they feel part of the destination. Today’s cruisers do not just want to see a destination out a window, they want memorable experiences that are unique to that destination.
This year’s Seatrade Cruise Global had many interesting sessions, dealing with these subjects and more. I was proud that I that I was able to moderate both Port and Destination Infrastructure Projects on Deck for 2020 and Beyond, and Partnering to Maintain the Cruising Ecosystem: Enhancing Community and Port Relationships. A great group of experts came together to discuss these topics as we uncovered insights into what the future of cruising will look like. It’s important that we keep these conversations going, and be aware that the future of cruising in our hands.