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Digitalisation adding new dimensions to shorex but delivery remains key

PHOTO: Frederik Erdmann
Carmen Morosan showing digital glasses applied on virtual reality tours
Digital technology can make shore excursions safer and smoother as well as add a completely new dimension to the passenger experience, shorex and land programme experts claimed at the Shorex: What’s trending panel at Seatrade Europe in Hamburg on Friday.

Despite technical innovation, creativity, organisation and most of all presentation remain critical for any successful tour now and in future, they agreed. ‘You may have the best excursion in the world but delivery is the key,’ Holland America Group's manager shore excursions, operations & product development, Andra Howie, claimed.

Among the sector's latest innovations are mobile apps for guides, web apps for shorex teams as well as virtual reality tours for passengers wanting to combine real and virtual experiences.

Carmen Morosan, global shorex manager of Intercruises Shoreside & Port Services, gave an insight into these tools, highlighting Intercruises' 'Safe Ashore' system tailored specifically to enhance the safety of shore excursion guests and guides.

The newly launched system comprises mobile apps for the guides along with a web app for the Intercruises team. The team is constantly updated about the location of the tour groups as well as among others about headcount updates made by the guide, tour itinerary deviations and Points of Interest left out by the guide during the course of the tour.

A single and secure communication channel allows for messaging exchanges such as traffic jams or congestion, allowing quick responses for remedial action.

For emergency situations local contact data is pre-loaded. The system also contains local maps highlighting 'Safe Places' in the vicinity of the tour – for example hospitals and police stations.

In case of a terrorist threat or other danger situations the guide can apply this information to bring the group quickly to a safe venue.

Morosan outlined the system's focus on safety and security, but she added that it also contributed to quality assurance, as for example avoiding a traffic jam helps to optimise the overall guest experience.

She also presented a pair of digital glasses newly applied for virtual reality tours. This latest innovation builds on geo-localised videos. If a guests visits, for example, the Acropolis, they can put the glasses on – and see what the place looked like centuries ago.

Other possibilities include the ability to display a site in a different season or show guests local events taking place only once a year – such as Carnival on Tenerife island.

In the discussion about virtual reality tools she outlined that passenger acceptance does – contrary to existing preconceptions – not at all depend on age but rather on the individual’s technology affinity and the region the guests come from.

Holland America's Howie confirmed that passengers were seeking more in-depth and more and 'adrenaline’ experiences, citing all sorts of water sports as examples – including, among many other opportunities, snorkel adventures between tectonic plates in Iceland.

Stressing the ever-increasing importance of corporate social responsibility, Jean-Pierre Joubert, shore excursions director of MSC Cruises, called on all industry actors to ask themselves how they were able to serve the community when designing a new excursion.

He also went into the conflict between the need to offer volume tours to main places of interest – often in different languages – while passengers at the same time ever more wished to feel that they were independent and not part of a large group.

Joubert also mentioned that cruise operators are still often not informed about events – such as local festivities – taking place in a port of call. He called on ports and local tourist organisations to communicate such information in advance, allowing the ships – as MSC Cruises is doing – to spread this news to guests.