Connecting Our Industry

So, you want to a supplier in a Cruise Line Shore Excursion? Please review the below information.

Venues and activities are usually paired with general sight-seeing en route and include transportation to and from the pier. The tour operator will contact and contract with you to include your site in a carefully curated experience of a half-day or fall day tour.

Depart pier, scenic drive to venue #1

Time at Venue #1

Depart for Venue #2

Time at Venue #2

Depart for Scenic drive to the pier

Arrive at Pier

Life Cycle of the Shorex Process

18 to 24 months before the ship arrives for its season, the cruise lines send RFP’s (requests for proposal) to the various operators in the port. They usually allow anywhere from one week to one month to complete the tour proposal documents and submit the information and rates. Many factors influence the tour product proposed such as ship size and frequency of calls, the season, and port hours. Once submitted, there is a product selection and refinement process, in which the line either accepts or requests changes to your original proposal or asks for product/venues not originally included. Next, the net rates are addressed and negotiated. Once the product is agreed and confirmed, a contract is issued. Contracts vary by line and may vary in duration to one season to multiple years. The line expects that none of the details (including rates) change for the duration of the contract. This is why it is very important that the net rates from the suppliers valid for the duration of the contract.

Soon after contracting, you are asked to give allotments that confirm the dates, departure times, and maximum number of seats the line may sell on the tour via their website. Again, they do not expect these details to change once issued. On the day of the call, the transport and guides are staged for the tour dispatch. Guests are loaded and sent on their tours. Tickets are counted and both the cruise line and the operator agree on the number of tickets collected and a “settlement” is issued. Some lines pay on this without the operator being required to invoice the cruise line, others require you to submit an invoice with the settlement. Payment is issued to the operator on contracted schedule (30/45/60 days after the call.)

6 Things You Need to Know

Be Realistic

Do you have broad appeal, do you authentically represent the history and culture of the area? Can you fill a coach? Are you too niche? Museums in particular (unless you are world renowned) tend not to sell. Guests can always use a taxi and pay the entry fee as a better value than the packaged tour. Know the guest profile, are the too young or old for you?

Have a great net rate

Ideally lower than any rate offered to any other group. Also, this rate needs to be valid for approximately two years. And you may be requested to give 12-18 months’ notice of any requested increase. Your approach here may be to attract the cruise groups as an addition to your business, not a replacement. Can you schedule them at times when you usually have low traffic at a lower rate? Perhaps open early or stay open late? Offer added value? Or unique experience only for cruise line passengers?

There is Risk & Reward

The Reward – you may hit and home run and have consistent and healthy group arrivals. The Risk – the ships are ocean going vessels and can be delayed due to weather or repositioning. So, there is a risk that your groups may not arrive, arrive late, become inconsistent or stop arriving all together. Cruise line contracts state they are not responsible for reimbursing any costs to the Tour Operator for Force Majeure (usually weather).

Throw out your current “terms & conditions”

Guests have the chance to pre-book tours online before boarding, but they are also able to book and cancel once onboard. Guests may join the ship the day before your port of call. This means you will not have a final number of guests until the night before the call and/or the count may change until the time the tour departs.

If your current terms (for example) are full payment at the time of booking and 100% cancellation penalties, these terms are usually not acceptable. You need complete flexibility up to and including the operation day. If you have a special situation where you absolutely must have final counts at a certain time, accommodation can be made (for example you are providing a meal.) Communication is the key. In most cases you will be asked to invoice the tour operator post-operation. Cruise lines pay a 30/45/60 days after receipt of invoice, suppler are usually paid on the same schedule.

Are you Flexible Enough?

Flexibility is key in being a successful supplier to the industry, here are some of the common challenges:

  • Neither you nor the tour operator have any control over the cruise lines pricing of tours
  • Counts may change until arrival of the group
  • Will you comp the tour escorts from the ship?
  • Will you comp the tour guide?
  • Ship is delayed 2 hours due to weather. Can you still accept the group?
  • Ship is coming a day later due to a mechanical issue, can you accommodate the change?
  • The ship just sailed away due to inclement weather, therefore, all groups are cancelled.

Are you a transportation provider oR Bus Company?

Providing transportation for shore excursion has many of the same requirements as any other supplier. Rates need to be competitive and consistent for up to several years and 18-24 months notice is usually required to capture an increase. Again, flexibility is the key to a happy relationship with your operator. Buses may be requested or released with minimal notice. `a VERY flexible cancellation schedule make you attractive to shore excursion tour operators

For Tour Operators

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