So said executives at Seatrade Europe's 'Destination Europe' panel last week in Hamburg.
Mai Elmar, executive manager of Cruise Europe, said destinations should focus on coordination, communication, organization and quality. 'Be as courageous to say "What's in it for us?" and not "What's in it for me?"' she advised.
Monica Bengtsson, business area manager-tourism, for Trade & Tourism Helsingborg, agreed that cooperation is vital, also on a local basis. She identified excursion trends as offerings families and more active people, links to special events and a focus on environmental issues, well-being, food and history.
Cruise lines should make use of the competence and innovation the destination can provide in these areas, Bengtsson added.
'A tour can make the cruise, becoming the most rewarding part of the holiday,' according to Philip Naylor, gm fleet, marine and shore operations for Carnival UK. But customer needs are changing, making tours a greater challenge.
The proportion of repeat versus first-time customers for P&O Cruises has shifted from 60/40 in 1998 to 51/49, a function of more capacity drawing passengers who reflect society as a whole, with more families and young couples than in the past.
As a result, Naylor said, his company is looking at how to provide appealing tours for families that don't disrupt participants without children. Also desirable are teen tours and ways to accommodate independent-minded customers such as podcasts for individual exploring. Traditional motorcoach tours are still needed, but increasingly customers seek simpler, shorter excursions rather than full-day programs with lunch.
'We need to move away from everything being predicated on scale and volume,' Naylor said, adding that operators tend to favor a conservative range of programs out of fear that something might go wrong.
Speaking from the audience, a tour operator said her company would gladly develop more options but it's hard to get those tours promoted on board. A colleague added that the operator carries the full risk in developing new options.
Today's shipboard excursion personnel are so busy with paperwork that many don't have time to personally experience new products, which harms sales, observed Mark Ittel, partner, Bermello, Ajamil & Partners.
However, online pre-booking of tours is boosting sales at many lines and gives the opportunity for more lively presentation such as video clips, said Nigel Lingard, marketing director for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.
Seatrade delegate Teresa Broccoli of tour provider Tumlare talked about a severe shortage of Italian- and Spanish-speaking guides in Northern Europe. Some ports can't even find sufficient German-speaking guides. Language students can be tapped, but guide courses in cities like Copenhagen are costly and the cruise season is short, she said.
Bob Harrison, director-cruise operations for Destination SouthWest, suggested that language skills supercede guiding skills today. He also noted that in a port like Falmouth, 32 volunteer 'ambassadors' turn out to assist cruise passengers. Many are themselves experienced cruisers.
Another issue that emerged was the rise of online tour sellers not sanctioned by the cruise lines. Established providers expressed numerous concerns, including congestion from such operators during tour dispatches.
But Carnival UK's Naylor said the numbers are still small and 'where it happens, it's generally because we're not offering what the market wants.' Or, the tour may be better presented to the consumer in an independent search than the cruise line's own description. 'Whose fault is that?' Naylor concluded.
Cruise executives on the panel expressed their surprise that more tourism entities don't get involved with ports in developing the business. When Colin Edley of Stansted Airport rose to state his facility's interest in the cruise sector, the audience applauded.