For entrepreneurs living in locations where cruise lines stop, the potential for creating a thriving shore excursion business that will be patronized by the visiting ship's passengers is an attractive opportunity. But before you run out and start purchasing all the equipment you'll need to operate such an enterprise, be sure you're aware of what cruise line Shore Excursion Teams are looking for when it comes to promoting these independent businesses to their customers.
Working with cruise lines
One of the leading causes of failure for shore excursion businesses catering to cruise ship passengers is a failure to develop a working relationship with the Cruise Line Shore Excursion Director, or marketing department. These are the people, or departments, responsible for finding the best on-shore tours at ports-of-call and promoting them to the cruise line's passengers.
As you begin to develop your business plan, or refine an existing one, begin to look at the situation from the cruise line Shore Excursion Director's perspective. What are the key elements you'll need to have in-place before they will confidently and enthusiastically recommend your excursion to their clients? And what will the average passenger be most concerned about when looking for a fun experience on shore?
Delivering a compelling proposal
While it may at first seem that getting a cruise line's attention and interest in any excursion at the exotic locales they tend to make port calls at would be a fairly simple task, the truth is that Shore Excursion Directors have a very specific list of items they require these businesses to address before they'll agree to promote them to their clientele. That list typically includes:
Nature of the excursion – that is, does your excursion offer something that tourists on board the ship will be truly interested in. So you're first order of business is to make sure you have designed a captivating and compelling experience that will excite visitors to your location.
Value – which essentially means will you be able to offer this excursion at a per passenger price that will be attractive to passengers, and the cruise line. You will need to assure the Shore Excursion Director that there will be no hidden fees or other efforts to inflate the amount the ship's passengers will be paying to participate in your excursion.
Convenience – what a Shore Excursion Director will want to know is if your excursion can be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time – and most importantly – will you be able to complete all the activities and still have the passengers back to the ship before departure time. This is absolutely critical to getting a cruise line to agree to partner with you.
Safety – and above all else, is your excursion safe? In this regard the typical tour director will be looking at two key things: do you have excursion insurance that covers all possible eventualities, and is your staff comprised of qualified professionals? You will need to be able to answer yes to both of these questions to gain a Shore Excursion Director’s confidence and interest.
The bottom line is that to build a working relationship with cruise lines for your shore excursion, you must deliver professionalism, reliability, and safety. Then the fun – and the business – will begin to flow.