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Itinerary planners declare authenticity and sustainability top priorities for picking ports

Article-Itinerary planners declare authenticity and sustainability top priorities for picking ports

PHOTO: HOLLY PAYNE cruise_destinations_authentic.jpg
L-R: Juan Trescastro, Paul Chapple and Ioannis Bras on September 7 at Seatrade Europe in Hamburg
Seatrade Europe attendees learnt today that authenticity and sustainability lead Azamara's and Virgin Voyages' decisions on which ports to visit.

Juan Trescastro, VP itinerary planning, destinations and government relations, Virgin Voyages, said sustainability ‘is the number one issue we take into consideration when we do itinerary planning – shore power, sustainable fuels, the ecosystem of a port and how it interacts with the environment… Cruise lines always have the bad rap…[but] in most destinations we’re [cruise lines] less than 5% of tourism.’

Tresscastro added we need to do everything we can to change that dynamic’ in a nod to yesterday’s keynote speech from Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman, MSC Cruises and global chair, Cruise Lines International Association who said the industry faced ‘too much unfounded criticism.’

Authentic experiences

During the ‘Top Tips to Get Your Destination on the Map’ panel at the event in Hamburg, Paul Chapple, head of land product development, Azamara, described himself as a ‘passionate traveller,’ telling those in the audience, ‘Death by PowerPoint is not what we want to see. I want to see the guides and hear their stories. Tell me about the people I’ll meet, not the places I’ll photograph.’

When it comes to authentic and immersive experiences, ‘to use a cliché, it’s our DNA,’ he stated. He urged openness on what destinations have to offer instead of presenting an image they feel cruise lines are after.

Illustrating the needs of passengers sailing with Azamara, he asserted, ‘We want them to enjoy every port of call, beyond the high street.’ With the line focused on late night stays in port and overnight calls, Azamara aims to go beneath the surface of a destination and uncover how ‘the port personality changes’ in the evening.

Trescastro shared similar sentiments: ‘We don’t look for prefabricated experiences. We don’t want the same experience in every single port… that’s manufactured. We have smaller groups. We don’t put 50 people on a tour together.’ He said anyone can see art, but ‘we want to see the art being made.’

Overcoming common pitfalls

Trescastro and Chapple named destinations’ common pitfalls and misconceptions when seeking to impress cruise lines.

‘Know your season, know when you should be offering your port,’ said the former. On discounted port fees at certain times of the year, he said, ‘It’s not all about the money.’

Chapple said ‘Knowing the guest demographic’ was important, noting, ‘don’t assume all cruise lines want the same product. Every tour should be considered whether it’s the right one for the cruise line to produce.’

Moderator Ioannis Bras, CEO, Five Senses Consulting and Development urged the destination to ‘Invite cruise lines individually if you can’ to support lines in finding what suits them.

Knowing when festivities are being held in the destination, the dates of religious festivals, and offering advice to cruise lines on which dates to avoid and which to aim for was also regarded as key. ‘Put these in your calendar and let the cruise line know. Put in a description, send a video,’ urged Bras.

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