A group of French ports has invested in a Cruise Friendly Welcome programme. Delphine Beudin, manager cruise development, Var Provence Cruise Club/Port of Toulon, talks to Michele Witthaus
The Cruise Friendly Welcome programme was developed in 2013 by the Var Provence Cruise Club, which represents twelve ports, says Beudin. “It is a network of local partners such as shops and leisure providers, who commit to deliver the best experience to cruise visitors, when ashore.”
Launched in 2013, the Cruise Friendly strategy is based on cooperation between a range of local business partners (around 60 so far in Toulon, which pioneered the scheme). All partners undertake to go the extra mile in their efforts to welcome guests from cruise ships. “Many of our partners are shops, but we also have some museums and leisure providers such as the cable car, scenic boats and scenic train, and all of them are committed to deliver the best welcome,” says Beudin. “They do this by adapting opening days and hours to fit with cruise schedules, by smiling and being friendly, and by speaking a little bit of English. We don’t ask the partners to be fluent in English but at least we ask them to have a common vocabulary to be able to make the communication easier – which makes a difference.
“We also ask partners to offer either a special discount or a complementary gift to the cruise guests. So for example, visitors receive a postcard when they use the cable car, and in the restaurant there is a free coffee or a drink. We want them to feel like someone very special, in line with the services level often delivered onboard.”
She explains that the Cruise Friendly concept aims first of all to offer a smooth experience to cruise guests and thus make them want to come back – either on a cruise ship or independently – for longer stays, and to help smaller ports compete with their ‘marquee’ rivals: “We will never be Monte Carlo or the French Riviera. So the best way to differentiate our ports is by the quality of experience delivered in our ports and the Cruise Friendly programme helps us to do that.”
There has been extremely positive feedback from participating partners and cruise guests following the implementation of the Cruise Friendly label in Toulon, says Beudin. The statistics showing the economic impact of the scheme are also very encouraging. Based on the 2013 figures, the average passenger spend of €67 while in Var Provence ports represents a total amount of €26 million in direct passenger expenditure.”
Following this promising start, the programme may be extended in the near future, she adds. “This has been a test and if it works well we will spread out to the other Var Provence ports.”
The members of Var Provence Cruise Club are Saint Cyr sur Mer, Sanary-sur-Mer, Bandol, Les Embiez, Toulon/La Seyne, Porquerolles, Le Lavandou, Cavalaire, Saint-Tropez, Saint-Raphael, Hyeres and Frejus (the latter two having joined in 2014). The number of cruise passengers to member ports rose by 12% between 2012 and 2013, and by 230% between 2008 (the year the Var Provence Cruise Club was launched) and 2013.
This article appeared in the Itinerary Planning Special Report. To read more articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.