Text: Luis De Carvalho, CEO BA Europe.
I am not referring to the online cruise forums, I mean the actual gathering of people to learn about and discuss cruise related matters.
Let’s start by defining what a cruise forum is
- A cruise forum is an event aimed at professionals in the cruise tourism sector including those from ports, city halls, local governments, chambers of commerce, travel agencies, institutions related to tourism promotion, port agents, tour operators, guides, restaurateurs, museums, attraction venues, transportation companies, retailers, airport management, and in general those service providers that can benefit from the arrival of cruise passengers to a destination;
- Who organizes these events?: Cruise Media and Communication organizations on behalf of Port Authorities, City halls, Tourism boards and local government with sponsorship from local institutions and companies;
- How many people are likely to attend?: on average about 100/150 attendees;
- What is the average duration?: 5 hours;
- Who should be invited to speak?: cruise line decision makers, ports agents, tour operators, local authorities, cruise experts in sales, marketing and infrastructure development.
The key questions are why should anybody organize such events?; and, why should people participate?
People can read articles about cruise on the industry media-related sites, listen to the expert’s opinions at large international cruise conferences; or go online and “swim” through the vast amount of information available in the net?
Each person has a different perspective: I will share my personal experience and views on this matter.
As a CEO of one of the most successful port & destination development firms servicing the cruise & maritime sector I learned from an early stage that I am only as valuable to my clients and to the industry to the extent that I understand what their needs and expectations are, and how can we best develop solutions to meet the future demands.
While I read cruise articles, listen and learn from my colleagues at international conferences and use the internet, I find that the educational opportunities, networking and personal contact that smaller and more goal focused cruise forums offer are extremely valuable.
These smaller niche forums are very important for ports and destinations that want to promote themselves in the cruise industry by increasing the number of cruise passengers generating economic and social contributions for the destination.
These forums all share similar objectives: offer an opportunity for the region’s stakeholders to understand their challenges and opportunities, while learning about the expectations of the industry from selected experts.
Hiring and working hand in hand in the organization of these forums with renowned cruise and media organizations servicing the industry is also advisable to ensure that the events are well attended and receives positive media coverage.
There has to be a good understanding of what the destination’s needs or challenges are before-hand in order to agree on an adequate budget and orientate the event accordingly. Some of these challenges could be: lack of promotion, marketing and communication strategies; identifying the opportunities to become a homeport; decisions to invest in cruise related infrastructure or services; and, how to increase the number of cruise visitation amongst others.
Some of the goals that can be achieved through a cruise forum include:
- Educate the local city hall, stakeholders and community regarding the facts and realities of the cruise industry;
- Gather support among local politicians and decision makers regarding cruise related matters and investments;
- Send a positive signal to the cruise industry that your port and destination partners are willing to build an active cruise community;
- Discussion of common challenges and opportunities – examine each of the key stakeholders involvement and responsibilities in the process;
- Understanding the power of working together and developing a local cruise network;
- Provide cruise training to local providers;
- Coverage on local and international media channels targeting the whole cruise line industry; and,
- Branding – The forum should prominently feature the destination.
As I am asked regularly to participate on some of these forums as a director, speaker, moderator, trainer, and lecturer by media and communication organizations, ports and cruise lines I have witnessed first-hand the positive impact of these events.
One example that comes to mind is the Cruise Forum organized in Huelva in 2014. This first forum was organized by the Port of Huelva with the participation of the city, local stakeholders, cruise lines and cruise experts. This was the launching platform for a series of subsequent local workshops to organize a plan to welcome and attract cruise tourist which resulted in 17 calls and 22.518 passengers expected in 2016 from a few sporadic calls before the cruise forum.
That first cruise forum in Huelva was crucial to gather all local stakeholders around the same table and agree on common goals. Working together they planned a menu of specialized services offered to passengers ashore which resulted on high satisfaction ratings and increased cruise traffic to the region.
Happy cruise passengers = happy cruise lines = increase number of cruise calls.
Being an ex-cruise line executive I also understand and appreciate the value of these tailor-made events and what they mean for the industry. As one of the cruise line executives quotes: “These types of cruise forums are a great arena to delve into topics we’re unable to cover at other events, in a more intimate environment. Cruise lines enjoy getting to know the ports much better and helping them gain valuable knowledge in order to better help them offer great experiences to our ships and guests.” Adam Sharp, Head of Port Operations & Guest Port Services – Europe, Middle East & Africa at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd
In closing what determines the success of these forums is what each of the participants brings to the table, their contribution to the discussion, commitment to learning and sharing and willingness to work together with cruise lines to develop and deliver their regional destination. That is the key for success!
Luis the Carvalho is the CEO of Bermello Ajamil & Partners Europe (B&A Europe), the Premier International Consultancy Group Servicing the Cruise Tourism & Maritime Sectors Specialized in Architecture, Engineering, Planning and Destination Development.
B&A Europe is currently involved on several projects involving Northern European, Baltic Sea, Mediterranean, Atlantic, Indian Ocean and West African regions.
Luis started his career in 1986 with Premier Cruise Lines and RCCL in Miami. He then spent 12 years with Crystal Cruises, being their LA based Global Port Coordinator overseeing shore side operations globally while inspecting new ports and destinations.
From 2005 on he served as: National Director Cruise Operations in Ultramar Express / TUI Spain based in Barcelona, Director of Cruise Operations in Tumlare Corporation and Director of Cruise Operations in Kuoni Destination Management based in Copenhagen.
After gathering knowledge and experience from all angles of the industry he started his own consulting firm Consult DC in 2009 to better serve the global cruise community and in 2013 merged Consult DC with top US 200 architecture firm Bermello Ajamil & Partners Inc. to form B&A Europe.
Luis is also a regular director, key speaker and moderator of some of the most prestigious international cruise events such as Seatrade Med, Cruise Global Miami, Seatrade Europe, MedCruise, Cruise Europe, Cruise Baltic, Clia Summit and International Cruise Summit Madrid amongst others.