As the hospitality industry continues its rebound, industry professionals and travelers alike are expressing strong excitement about the return to travel. This enthusiasm is also true of the cruise industry, with some cruises operating at 100% occupancy this year. It seems travelers are at last ready to set sail.
While a welcome opportunity for cruise operators, the resurgence of cruise-goers brings a certain set of challenges. More than ever before, cruise companies need to be capable of not only adjusting to changes, but anticipating them.
Industry leaders won’t be able to tackle this tall task alone. Addressing obstacles like staff shortages, a still evolving pandemic, and new guest expectations hinges on the adoption of technology to improve operations and profitability.
All hands on deck!
In any business, but especially in hospitality, it’s absolutely essential to attract and retain top talent. In light of labor shortages, cruise operators need to consider how they can simultaneously improve workplace conditions, boost productivity, and still deliver a passenger experience that doesn’t lack in personal touch.
Cruises come with particularly unique personnel needs, such as managing a wide range of onboard roles, language and cultural barriers, and time tracking in light of the need for 24x7 service. Any staff-facing system must be easy to use, customizable for role-based workflows, and offer worldwide familiarity, allowing workers in any part of the world to embrace it. It has to efficiently onboard and train employees, simplify work, and eliminate as many routine tasks as possible through automation.
When you can onboard new staff quickly and easily; train them efficiently; and boost their productivity with digital assistants, SMS, and social, that all equals time and energy to be rededicated to delivering stellar passenger experiences.
Navigating new passenger demands
As travelers take off to their destinations, they aren’t just bringing their carry-ons, but expectations for faster, better, and safer service. As such, a top priority among industry leaders is to find a platform that can keep up with changes in guest demands.
Cruise-goers expect experiences as unique as they are. This requires a deep understanding of passenger behavior to develop personalized experiences that resonate with their wants and win their loyalty. Cruise operators need to be able to comprehensively capture passenger behaviors and preferences for access by relevant staff. These insights help staff deliver the desired experience.
Safety and hygiene will also remain important to travelers for years to come. Consumers increasingly demand self-service capabilities, like mobile check-in and contactless payment. Technology solutions that minimize crowds, long wait times, and unnecessary contact are no longer 'nice-to-haves;' they’re must-haves to maintain marketplace relevance.
Self-service technology won’t only work in favor of the passenger experiences, health, and safety; it will offer reprieve for short-staffed ships. Mobile check-in, for example, untethers crew from the service desk and frees personnel from a mundane, repetitive task. Those workers can instead focus on work that contributes more significantly to passenger experiences.
Bringing modern features aboard
The ability to implement innovations simply and swiftly is key to staying ahead of industry changes. Operators need to add new capabilities fast in order to be competitive, and this requires a different approach to integration than the one they have relied on in the past.
Open application programming interfaces (APIs) and an intuitive, 'self-service' style integration platform will help cruise operators enable rapid evolution to seize opportunities and overcome challenges by quickly and easily incorporating new technologies. Especially for cruise operators who aren’t ready for a 'big bang' approach to new technology, this approach enables them to adopt more modern functionality and modules over time.
Ensuring secure (and smooth) sailing
Because many cruises operators are using systems from the early 2000’s, this issue of security and data privacy particularly acute, especially with escalating cyber-risks. Because ships require constant connectivity for recreation, financial transaction processing, healthcare operations, and customer information storage, threats will always be present. Organizations should address these threats through preventive controls and employee training.
On the front-end, cruise operators need to educate staff on cyber threats and best practices for lowering risk. On the back-end, they must adopt IT infrastructures that reduce the complexity of their systems to lower bad actors’ opportunities to infiltrate the network.
As cruiseships at last take to the seas, there are certainly challenges and changes ahead. With the right technology in place, operators will no doubt be enabled to work through each and every obstacle with a spirit of innovation. The hospitality world has shown incredible resilience and determination these last two years, and I’m thrilled to see the rising tides for cruise operators.