Belize has grown leaps and bounds as it relates to cruise tourism. According to the Belize Tourism Board, BTB, the first ship that docked in Belize had only ninety passengers and to date, ships come calling to Belize with approximately twelve thousand passengers a day. BTB is hoping to attract even more ships to our ports and it held its first Cruise Conference today in an effort to achieve this end. Noriko Gamero, the Director of Cruise and Destination Planning at the BTB, spoke to the media about the conference.
Noriko Gamero, Director of Cruise and Destination Planning, BTB: “The different panelists in the morning spoke about how to prepare for the cruise arrivals, how an itinerary is selected, how we are ranking currently in comparison to the Caribbean, where do we rank in concern to guest satisfaction. We have to get ready for the competition that exists out there and the objective was to get the locals to hear what we hear on an international basis and see how we can collectively come together to improve that. The second set of panelists is to stay ready and that is really kind of where we have the added value, the increased guest satisfaction, how do we infuse the experience part, the wow part into what Belize has to offer in our return guests. We want the stakeholders to hear ‘yes you are doing an amazing job’ but what are these missing gaps that can make us better. We heard this morning that we have improved drastically on a guest satisfaction standpoint with an 8.2 now but in comparison to the other ports in the Caribbean on average, they are at 8.8. So with little milestones, opening up their eyes, letting them hear what we hear every day we can come together as a family and make it better to get. This morning we all agreed that we’re gonna make 10, not 8.8. The third point is really how do we stay ready for the long haul? You know there is long term sustainability of the cruise tourism, how do we prepare for these large class ships that are being built, the competition is tough out there and at the end of the day Belize is a unique product that we want to make sure is here to stay.”
As Gamero noted that Belize guest experience is presently rated at 8.2 and their experience is essential since it determines whether or not they would return to the country or recommend the country to their friends and families. Beth Hatt, one of the facilitators, said that guests are looking for authenticity.
Beth Hatt, Facilitator: “Guest satisfaction ratings are impacted by how you treat the guest and talking about storytelling and how you can bring stories to what you give as a tour or even as a vendor story about some of the things you’re selling and things like that.”
Reporter: What are some of the common mistakes perhaps tour operators and those in the tourism industry make ?
Beth Hatt, Facilitator: “Well, common mistakes made? I think for the cruise industry is many front lines, many people think ‘oh they’re only here for a few hours we won’t see them again.’ ‘they’re gone later’ but what they don’t realize is the importance of the return visit, the importance of the fact that people do cruising and they are checking out destinations along the way and they may come back for a whole week. Things like we tell them to ‘do you treat those guests the way your auntie coming to visit?’ like how different is it the way you would treat a guest on a ship? And that makes a difference. Everything that you can do, those special moments, those wild moments that you can leave a guest feeling that they were somewhere and they really fell in love with the place is really important.”
Paul Rivero, a tour operator, shared how the conference impacted him.
Paul Rivero, Tour guide: “The information that we have gathered so far has been something that has been told to us over the years that we have been around, so it’s something that has been you know just reinforced by these guys and hearing it from a different perspective, especially from the bigger people on board, from the international market just makes us know that we have been going in the right direction and if we continue to use these tools and this information we should be able to go further and reach our full potential and even so help each other.”
The conference was held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina.