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Public relations is a local imperative for cruise destinations - Ashcroft ...

Public relations is a local imperative for cruise destinations - Ashcroft ...

Miller. “We also know

Miller. “We also know from the surveysthat the ships are bringing in many (44%)first-time visitors to Charleston, and serveas an introduction to the city which willencourage passengers to return for alonger stay.“There are one or two hoteliers who saythey do not see the benefits; but whenwe check the statistics we see that ourpassengers stay in their hotels, too.”CruiseMaineUSA has also been veryproactive in the communities of its 12 portmembers. Part of Maine Tourism, and witha range of associate members includingairlines, the media and governmentdepartments, it has been a separateassociation for nine years – during whichtime its ports have seen their combinedtotal of cruise calls more than double,including an 18% hike from 281 in 2009 to332 in 2010. Passenger numbers were uplast year, too – rising 16% to 267,000.Bar Harbor remains the busiest, topping100 calls for the first time in 2010, whilePortland remains second with its callshaving doubled since 2003 to morethan 70 last year, bringing 76,000passengers. It also has American CruiseLines homeporting two of its coastal cruiseships.Maine was one of only five US statesto see economic impact from cruising riseduring 2009, when numbers generallyslipped back as cruise deploymentsswitched from North America to Europe.“Our member ports vary from deepdraft, shallow draft and those very shoreexcursionfocused,” says Powers. “Thismeans that what we do for them and ourother members – which includes towns,chambers of commerce and retailers – willvary.“Across the state we find strong generalsupport for cruise tourism but, withoutdoubt, there are some people and groupsthat are influenced by the ill-informed.“We have been running tours onboardships for several years to show theefficiency of their wastewater or solidwaste disposal, and we target people whohave already expressed concerns – somefrom conservation groups – as well ashigh school or college students and otherswho we know will spread the word.“We know how impressed they will be,as the systems on ships are usually wayahead of anything on land.“Bar Harbor has just 5,000 permanentresidents and – being an island whichis 70% national park (Acadia) – it has aproblem dealing with its own waste, so itmade sense to show officials there howa Holland America Line ship (Eurodam)handled it for a similar number of peopleonboard.”“When it comes to handling solidwaste, they (the cruise lines) are theexperts,” says Bar Harbor Planning AndDevelopment Director Anne Krieg. “Wethought the ship visit would be a greatway for citizens – and especially thoselinked to the cruise industry or solid wasteissues – to learn the efficiencies that are inplace onboard.“Also our city’s Cruise Ship Committeewas about to conduct its year-endreview, so getting insight into cruise shipoperations was timely.”Says Powers: “It is frustrating to haveto keep doing this, but the fact is that– despite the best efforts of the linesthemselves – their message does notreally get across: simply because no-onebelieves it if it comes straight from them.People have to see for themselves.” Thisechoes the current CLIA policy of findingindependent experts with credibility to putthe cruise sector’s case.Bar Harbor will again be the busiest ofthe Maine cruise ports, with between 105and 110 calls this year. They will include24 double ship calls and seven triple shipcalls, meaning that it could have up to35,000 visitors in town on a single day.With Acadia attracting 2 million a year, thatis at least another 5,000 per day.“We have been working with thetown, port, park and lines to make thiscruise growth work for Bar Harbor,” saysPowers. “This has been challenging,sometimes frustrating, but ultimatelyrewarding.”There was some local unrest a fewyears ago over congestion caused bycruise visitors, so consultants BermelloAjamil & Partners were brought in toproduce a plan for sustainable cruisetourism growth. It included a new trafficflow programme that, says Powers, hasbeen successfully implemented.Ensuring the maximum economicbenefit from such tourism is one keyway of persuading local communities –particularly those in the retail sector – tosupport its growth.“In conjunction with the University ofMaine we are running a webinar 60 daysbefore the main season begins,” sheQuebec CityLead StoryDream World Cruise Destinations Spring 201129

30Lead StoryDream World Cruise Destinations Spring 2011Bar Harborsays. “This will include the call schedules,so retailers know when they need to layon transfers between the port and theirstores.“We will also provide information onthe passenger/crew demographics andadvise retailers what they should belooking to sell, and how they should belooking to sell it. We have already advisedthose selling local handicrafts to get rid ofwindow clutter and have the craftspersonworking in the window instead.“There have also been discussions aboutlocal communities’ capability to provideinformation packages for pre- and postcruisepassengers in hotel rooms. Theseshould highlight options to extend theirstay, and also offer discount coupons forlocal stores and attractions.”The university has carried out a coupleof local economic impact studies, one inBar Harbor back in 2002 and the lateston Portland in 2008. Powers says thatthese suggested that the CLIA nationalstatistics are understating the total impact,partly because of an underestimate ofpassenger spending ashore.One of the authors of the two studies,Associate Professor of Economics ToddGabe, says: “In both ports there is agrowing recognition of the importance andpotential of cruise tourism, but it is moreadvanced in Bar Harbor – partly becauseits economy is very seasonal.“The real spike for retailers is in Julyand August. Only a handful of ships callthen so, with most coming in Septemberand October, the growth of cruise tourismhas meant that shops which used toclose for the season on Labor Day ormaybe Columbus Day now stay open untilimmediately after the last scheduled shipvisit.“Bar Harbor merchants see the cruiseships as tacking on a couple of months totheir usual season.“Portland is different as it is the largestcity in Maine and has a year-roundeconomy. Retailers open year-roundanyway, but they are less used to dealingwith cruise visitors.“The location of the port and thenature of the town or city also makes adifference. In Bar Harbor visitors eitherdock or tender right into the centre of atown that clearly caters to tourists. It has ashopping and dining infrastructure that hasbeen built up with them in mind.“The Portland community has not yetreally been impacted by cruise tourism,so there has been little public comment;but Bar Harbor is more clearly affected,and the local media has generally beenpositive so far.“There has been some negativity fromlocal B&B owners. They see cruising as athreat, not just because of the competitionbut also because their guests’ experiencecould be damaged by the influx of visitorswhen the big ships come in.”Professor of Economics Jim McConnon,a co-author of the study, says: “BarHarbor retailing is very dense anddiverse – almost like a mall. Portland ismore metropolitan, and it’s simply not asfocused on tourism. There is also a twolanehighway that has to be crossed fromthe port to reach the main retail sector.“When people get off the ships totravel independently there is not a lot ofinfrastructure to help them penetrate theretail areas.“Talking to the passengers, severaldifferent groups said that they wereinterested in either the historic architectureor the food sector, and would haveappreciated the option of walking tours;but at that time – 2009 – there were none.“Since then an entrepreneur has set upfoodietours.com to do high-end culinaryart tours and, although initially aimed atgeneral tourists, he has since focused oncruise passengers.”The port authority has also innovatedby introducing the option of self-tourtechnology which will direct visitors andgive them a tour commentary.“We see a lot of opportunities in thecoastal communities to connect cruisepassengers with agri-tourism – eitherthe fibre arts or culinary tours,” saysMcConnon. “There are now signs that localgroups are beginning to recognise this asan opportunity, and specific agri-tourismexcursions would certainly improve theport’s linkage to the local and regionalcommunity.“I work closely with the businesscommunity to help them improve theirprofitability and – looking at the studyresults and talking to business leaders – itwas pretty clear there was something of adisconnect with the cruise sector.

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