The future of Shorex in Asia: Challenges & Opportunities
Julieanne Yee, Intercruises Director Asia, talks about the future of shore excursions in East Asia and Southeast Asia for the June 2020 issue of Seatrade Cruise Review magazine – read the original magazine article online (p.45), or extended version of Julieanne's comments below.
What do you think the main areas of concern will be regarding shore excursions as they return?
Our priority has always been the safety of everyone involved in our operations and we will need to implement new health measures in accordance with local legislation and cruise industry guidelines, which CLIA, the cruise lines and different ground handlers are developing in order to standardize procedures across destinations. We are looking in detail at every aspect of a shore excursion, from the moment a guest leaves the ship, until they return. This will include different protocols in the port itself, before mandatory standards and processes for vehicles, venues and guides. Capacity will be a key issue, as the new measures affect group size and vehicle, guide and venue availability. We also need to consider the culinary aspects, any equipment used and the potential for personal contact in each experience.
A key concern will be how new health measures impact shore excursions, both in terms of what experiences can still be offered and in what form – let’s not forget that guests are on vacation and we need to deliver a valuable and enjoyable experiences, that become cherished memories. Prior to the impact of the coronavirus, we were focusing on different initiatives, including small group walking tours, exclusive out-of-hours venue visits, audio guide technology and options for more independent shore excursions. We are accelerating our work in these areas as we believe they may provide some solutions.
Are there concerns specific to East Asia or Southeast Asia?
There will be challenges in all ports worldwide, it is now about how the different stakeholders work together to overcome them. As the epidemic unfolded in Asia, each country responded in its own way and I hope that as tourism returns, there is greater alignment and consistency across destinations, especially with regards to legislation and agreements between neighboring countries. Domestic cruising will probably start first, so China is best positioned to return, with ships visiting different Chinese ports and then neighboring countries, such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan.
Are there specific countries or ports that provide unique challenges or opportunities?
As the return continues, ports well prepared for the new health measures and operating procedures will be better positioned, as will those with strong destination infrastructure, including good vehicle supply and an array of venues for guests to visit. Ports with nearby, large and easily accessible outdoor settings, such as national parks or beaches, will also be good options as guests look to reconnect with nature. Additionally, ports located close to the city downtown could be more popular, reducing the need for vehicles and enabling social distancing through more independent travel and walking tours. In the Philippines we have previously organized exclusive visits to uninhabited islands and these types of options could be attractive.
So far, what has your approach/process been to address these concerns? E.g. new policies, tools, training, investments?
Intercruises is part of the TUI Group and as such is supported by specialist teams, including Health & Safety, Sustainability, Finance, IT and Legal. These teams worked alongside our product and operations experts as part of our response team as the epidemic spread, and they continue to do so as we prepare for cruising to return. Different projects include developing updated operations guidelines and training for all destinations, as well as trialing digital solutions to overcome various challenges, such as social distancing.
These comments were originally published as part of a larger feature entitled ‘Shorex in Asia-Pacific’, in the June 2020 issue of Seatrade Cruise Review magazine.