Achieving great guest appeal across the world

Positively influencing guest ratings is an essential goal for ports, tourist boards and shorex operators. Lindsay James speaks to leaders from across the field to find out how they do it

Achieving great guest appeal across the world
The Port of Trieste is working alongside the local community to increase guest appeal
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

What are the key factors that ensure a destination has high cruise guest appeal?

Laurence Bouchardie, head of development, Atlantic Port of Bordeaux: Experience, experience, experience! It is all about the guest experience, making sure the call reflects the local area in terms of both the tours on offer and the food. Everything must stand apart from the previous or the next call. It’s also key to make customers feel welcome, to make them feel part of the destination and to make them feel special.

Franco Napp, CEO, Trieste Terminal Passeggeri: The destination must be supported by a relevant marketing policy from the cruise lines, and hopefully by the public authority of the city too. Collaboration with the local community is also important.

Nichole Hazell, St.Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority: Providing a unique and memorable experience to visitors can only be achieved through a friendly welcome, a safe and secure destination and by ensuring there is a lot to see and do.

Laurà Cristiana, Port of Messina: The destination must be interesting and be well known by guests. It must offer several excursions that appeal to different types of guests such as families, couples and the elderly.

Rachella Boellaard, Amsterdam Cruise Port: You have to provide the passenger with the things they are looking for. Passengers going on a cruise do so for the chance to visit several locations; to relax/ get away from it all; to be pampered; to experience high quality entertainment; to enjoy a variety of activities; to experience something unique and different; and to enjoy superior food.

Agnes Mathiesen, cruise and destination development, Flåm: There are a number of key factors: an enhanced product; an authentic experience; high- and low-volume tours; the availability of pre- and post-cruise organised activities; a good service; and friendly people.

How important are good guest ratings to the ongoing success of a cruise destination?
Maja Danilović, marketing and development, Luka Kotor: Ratings are the most important element for increasing tourists’ interest in the destination. Nowadays, social networks have the power to lead and control the interest of the target audience, so it is very important to have good feedback. According to our internal questionnaire, on a scale of 1-5 our score is 4.83 which means that the expectation of the destination is in compliance with the real experience of passengers.

Corryn Morrissey, business development manager, Port Charlottetown: I believe that guest satisfaction is key to the ongoing success of a cruise destination for a number of reasons. First and foremost, if they have a bad experience, this will not only reflect on the destination, but also on the cruise line that chose that destination. If passengers continue to have poor experiences, then certainly a cruise line will need to take this into consideration and evaluate the benefit of including this port in an itinerary. We also believe that there is a great opportunity as a destination if a passenger has an exceptional experience. This will encourage these passengers to share their experience with others and recommend our destination, and also potentially encourage them to come back to our destination again. Many lines have repeat passengers and this is something we as a destination are incredibly happy about.

Theodoros Tsitouras, director of passenger services and property management, Piraeus Port Authority: Guest ratings are extremely important for a number of reasons. They help us ensure that we’re successfully meeting guests’ expectations. Through this we are not only able to monitor our weak points and work on them, but also to understand our strong points and develop them further. Today’s passengers have more control over things they want to see, enjoy and experience. In the cruise sector, we have a passenger community that shares its experiences online. With this in mind, we recognise the importance of monitoring social media networks.

Joseph Boschulte, president and CEO, The West Indian Company: Good guest ratings are very important to the ongoing success of a cruise destination, especially with the popularity of social media and travel review websites. Good service is good service, regardless of cultural differences. Cleanliness, friendliness, responsiveness and patience say considerably more about people and places than attractions, great deals or keeping up with travel industry trends. Something as small as a smile, a wave or personal attention can make a big difference in a guest’s opinion about a destination. A good onshore experience translates to good ratings, but more importantly, return visitors.

Laura Cimaglia, cruise sector development at Brindisi Port Authority: They are very important for the port so that we can be aware of what’s going well and what must be done better. I doubt it has the same importance for the cruise company, whose decision to reconfirm (or not) a destination is based on more than one factor. For them, costs and revenues generally come first.

Michael Morrison, business development manager, Orkney Islands Council: If the customer says no, the destination does not go, it is as simple as that. In a highly competitive market, customer satisfaction is paramount, not just for repeat business but for referral business as well. Exceeding the visitor expectation as opposed to just meeting it is how a destination thrives. Introspection and reinvention based on customer feedback of the cruise product and service delivery will keep the offering fresh and motivate the teams who deliver the cruise ship product shore side.

Bojan Babič, cruise terminal director, Luka Koper: They are very important – absolutely crucial to the long-term success of a company. Without good ratings, you cannot do anything.

Lisa Wieland, acting port director, Massachusetts Port Authority: The cruise industry is a relatively small portion of the global tourism industry and word of mouth is crucial to the success of a cruise destination. It only takes a moment for a guest to post a comment on a travel website or on social media, but the impact of that comment – for better or worse – on the broader cruise community and a port’s core business may be significant. Therefore, it is important to exceed expectations whenever possible. Many of today’s travellers do their own research before booking a vacation. If the destination or company doesn’t have a favourable review, it is likely the guest will bypass that location in favour of a location with a higher rating.

What specific activities are you running to positively influence guest ratings?
Dona Regis, CEO, Tortola Pier Park:
The Tortola Pier Park celebrates its first anniversary of its enhanced cruise pier on 29 April and already passenger feedback is a key contributor to our programme of continuous improvement. All of the guest experience data that we collect is shared in working groups, committees and other meetings and actions are taken to ensure that our destination continues to deliver beyond expectations for both the visiting cruise lines and their guests.

Stephen Xuereb, CEO, Valletta Cruise Port: We constantly take up challenges and ensure that we offer a good first and last impression to all visiting guests. It is all about creating experiences. We constantly organise welcome events for passengers including historical re-enactments, whilst ensuring that information is readily available also through the information booth on the terminal exit. We are currently extending our terminal facilities to improve flows and the overall customer experience. Additionally, we have created a destination within a destination with the restoration of the Valletta Waterfront historic buildings, now housing a number of guest services. We are proud of our historic and scenic port, and this is reflected in our warm hospitality.

Irene Souto, commercial manager, Port Authority of A Coruña: At port it is essential that services are well coordinated with the cruise terminal, so passengers don’t have to spend a long time embarking and disembarking, finding the correct way to the shorex bus, locating the desk for tourist and city information, etc. We make sure sign posting is clear and that it’s easy to reach the city centre and main tourist venues. On the website, cruise calls are announced in advance and some shops and restaurants have special offers for cruise passengers.

Mario Arends, cruise manager, Aruba Tourism Authority: We work with the port to enhance the first impression as well as the logistical aspect of the activities at the port, ensuring there is a big enough flow of taxis and other services available for passengers. We also work with the tour operators to make sure that there is enough product capacity to accommodate our visitors. We work to continue to stimulate the creation of new products and enhancements of existing products.

Catherine Lafon, cruise port promotion, Port of Sète: We try to propose new excursion programmes to cruise lines on a regular basis. We try to offer something authentic and different. And, after each season, we have a meeting with the different stakeholders to discuss what could be done. We work closely with the town authorities to raise awareness about the specific actions to be taken regarding the cleanliness of the streets, the opening of shops during lunchtime or on Sundays when a cruise ship is calling. We inform the locals and incite them to give a friendly welcome to the cruise passengers. We meet the shopkeepers, café/restaurant waiters, taxi drivers and all those likely to come in contact with cruise passengers and explain guests’ needs and expectations.

Antonella Filippi, PR manager, Port of Palermo: We believe in a strong cooperation with public institutions to ensure the first impression of the town is a good one. We know that the appeal of a town is a result of many small but important things such as cleanliness, easy access to tourist information points and public transportation and we work to make them better.

How are you collaborating with cruise lines and/or other organisations to share passenger feedback as part of a continuous programme of improvement?
Sandra Diana Bratland, managing director, Cruise Norway: Passenger feedback is vital and we always seek to be informed about the latest guest ratings. We would like to receive more feedback, both from passengers and the cruise lines, as this information can be shared with the cruise ports and be used to actively improve services and products.

Nora Fever, business development manager, Port of Corner Brook: The ports in Atlantic Canada meet with the cruise lines several times annually to share information, discuss feedback and address issues of concern. In addition, the Cruise Canada New England Alliance hosts an annual symposium which focuses on the Canada New England region. This event (typically held in June) is attended by ports, destinations, agents, tour operators and the cruise lines. It is an opportunity to engage about topics that are of particular interest to the Canada New England region.

Michele Forsyth, tour operator, Coreas Hazells: As one of the leading stakeholders in the industry, we convene at a minimum of two meetings per year in which we discuss feedback received from cruise lines and guests. At these meetings decisions are taken which seek to alleviate the recurrence of any issues, mitigate against future challenges and inform and implement, across the board, any best practices which have been employed. These are all noted in the minutes of the various meetings which are held. The cruise lines are updated on the responses through their agents, our offices, at meetings and at conferences.

Joseph Simas, vice president of marine operations, Meyer Agencies: Cruise lines now invite guests to comment directly on their websites. Tour operators are accountable for every departure to ensure a great tour experience. Great comments get repeat business and ensure a successful operation.

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Lindsay James
By Lindsay James
Friday, April 8, 2016