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When it comes to tours, weaving a good story is vital (updated)

From left, moderator Denise Clark, cruise industry liaison for Denise Clark Consulting. Lemoneight's Claudine Pohl, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's JP Salazar, MSC Cruises' Marialuisa Iccarino, head of shore excursions for MSC Cruises; Intercruises' Simon O’Sullivan and Aviomar Adventures' Trino Molina
Memorable shore excursions have a lot in common with Hans Christian Anderson or Lewis Carroll. Both the authors and the tours rely on creative and clever story-telling to draw their audiences into another world.

That was one of the conclusions of a panel of shore excursion experts at Seatrade Cruise Global on Monday.

Speaking on panel dubbed the “Ever Evolving World of Shore Excursions,” Claudine Pohl, founder and CEO of the Lemoneight tourism consulting firm, said that facts and figures come alive when a good tour guide weaves them into a narrative.

From good to epic

“A well-trained tour guide can take an excursion from good to epic,” Pohl said.

Stirring up emotions with good story-telling can differentiate one tour from another, said JP Salazar, SVP strategic initiatives for Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.

One story that seems to be panning out well lately is about protecting the natural environment. Panelists agreed that guests get a sense of satisfaction from participating in excursions and activities that aid the planet.

Feeling good

Trino Molina, director of corporate finance for Aviomar Adventures, a Cozumel tour operator, said his company helps with Cozumel initiative that preserves up to 4,000 sea turtle nests each season.

“When we tell the guests, they like it, they feel good about it,” Molina said.

The company also collects rainwater for recycling projects in communities where it has excursions. The water gets used to clean ATVs, clothes, motorcycles and other items. “Instead of buying water, we are harvesting water,” Molina said. “in the end we are saving money. It was not the main idea, but now we have it. It also feels good.“

SafeAshore initiative

In a related vein, Simon O’Sullivan, head of Balkans, Italy and Northern Europe for Intercruises Shoreside and Port Services, said his company advanced the SafeAshore Initiative. Originally a response to the threat of terrorism, the program uses electronics to track each excursion vehicle on a company-arranged tour.

Today, use of the program has evolved to make sure excursions are on schedule in returning to the ship. When some buses are late, the line can check to see roughly where they are on the return from, say, London to Southampton.

“The captain starts tapping his watch and we can say exactly where those tour groups are,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s a big relief for the dispatch teams that sit shoreside.”

Sharing feedback

Both tour operators and cruise lines use consumer ratings to validate the appeal of their excursions. Audience members working for destination management organizations questioned how they can access that feedback. Marialuisa Iaccarino, head of shore excursions for MSC Cruises, said her line shares data with tour operators, but could share it with destinations as well.

“The contact may be through the local tour operator,” Iaccarino said.

Update flags Intercruises' SafeAshore initiative