The webinar panel included Regional Director, Cruise Asia by Destination Asia, Alvin Materi; Managing Director, Excursions Ireland, Niamh McCarthy; Global Shore Excursions Manager, Intercruises Shoreside & Port Services, Carmen Morosan and Managing Director, Excursions Limited, Rupert Woodard.
The great outdoors
‘In this post COVID world, nothing is going to be the same as it was before’, commented Materi. ‘That’s true about shore excursions – and I think it will be that way for some time to come.
The great outdoors, walking tours, wellness experiences, local economy and independent guests were identified by the four speakers as key areas in which shorex providers can expect to see growth.
On making the most of outdoor spaces, Morosan commented that ‘social distancing may more easily be achieved’, going on to add that after countries’ lengthy lockdowns, people may ‘crave being out in nature’.
Morosan also said that people may have gone through a process of ‘identifying what is really important in our lives that could translate to a demand to being out and reconnecting with nature’.
As well as added emphasis on mindfulness, there was discussion on the pragmatism of outside tours, which would alleviate pressure on sourcing modes of transport.
McCarthy described how Excursions Ireland are in the process of generating an increasing number of itineraries that were growing in popularity pre-COVID-19 – such as cooking, sourcing local ingredients, foraging and cycling.
She added that the company are trying to coordinate more departures that facilitate ‘smaller groups, luxury groups and niche groups’.
Decreased spending power from future guests versus luxury cruising – which is expected to bounce back faster – were also points that were considered.
Woodard went on to add that ‘people will want to give a little back to the destinations they’re visiting’ and ‘probably be a bit more ecologically thoughtful.’
He continued, ‘More environmental tours will be attractive and certainly exclusive visits because we won’t want to be visiting sites with lots of other people visiting at the same time, so we’re probably likely to see more out of hours [excursions] than before’.
Owing to the continuing threat of COVID-19, the panel predicted that the future of shorex will involve ‘bubbles’, with people separated into groups for the duration of trips which, according to Materi, ‘extends beyond the ship’.
‘We’re limited as to what we can do at the moment’, said Woodard, before going on to say that there will be a ‘stronger focus on secure, safe, small, personal individual travel “bubbles”’ moving into the future.
‘We’re going to have to adapt and evolve quite considerably’, he added.
All agreed health and safety is the number one priority, listing social distancing and monitoring capacity on board ships, coaches and in venues some of the areas which need to be explored. Technology in the form of smartphone apps and contact tracing could potentially be applied.
Communication and standards
‘All of the shorex companies need to set a new benchmark for safety measures and regulations’, commented Morosan.
‘We know how strict the requirements are on board the cruise lines and we need to communicate that to the public and make it more visible’.
‘This is our chance to transform all this bad press that the industry has received into positive stories and to show we are leaders in the travel industry’.