More Rupert cruise ship excursions needed

Businesses on the North Coast have until mid-August to pitch their proposal to be included in the cruise industry for the 2017 season.

Twenty-five cruise ships

Businesses and entrepreneurs on the North Coast have until mid-August to pitch their proposal to be included in the cruise industry for the 2017 season.

Prince Rupert Terminals Inc. (PRTI), the company that manages cruise operations, provided an information session to interested parties to help guide them through the process of joining the shore excursion program.

PRTI’s role is to represent the interest of all cruise operators and to be the one point of contact for cruise lines, which includes marketing shore excursions.

This year, there are seven tour companies that provide 10 tours, such as the grizzly bear tour, the Butze rainforest nature walk and touring Quotoon Falls via seaplane. The collective capacity for these tours is only 500-600, which is why PRTI is targeting smaller luxury cruise lines with less passengers.

Through market research, cruise lines have stated that “The best part of Prince Rupert is actually outside of Prince Rupert.” The port-of-call is a shore excursion destination, and what PRTI is looking for is to match the product to the line.

“We want to be able to grow this to deliver options for cruise lines but also to potentially attract the likes of Holland America, which is a premium to just verging on luxury, but they are just about 2,000 passengers so we still have a ways to go,” said the trade development associate for the Port of Prince Rupert, Jeff Stromdahl, when he presented on July 21 at the Prince Rupert Interpretive Centre.

The 2016 season will see 12 ships with more than 7,200 passengers and seven cruise ships participating in the shore excursion program. Expedition cruise lines that offer their own tours are less likely to participate in the program and next year there are fewer of these types of lines, which is one reason why the 2017 season already has 21 ships confirmed to take part in the program out of the 25 cruise ships scheduled.

“It’s a significant jump,” Stromdahl said.

The game plan to attract more high-end luxury cruise lines is to increase the quality of the tour product. Previously, some tours have used taxis to transport tourists to and from their excursion and Stromdahl said this is an unfortunate first and last impression. The cruise lines are looking for a tour product that matches the brand experience.

“Each cruise line is differentiating themselves from their competitors, some are all about the culinary experience and we do not have a culinary offering in Prince Rupert. There’s a little bit of a hint,” Stromdahl said.

Another product PRTI is looking for is the marquee tour experience that can take a lot of passengers in one day, however, Stromdahl said this takes some time to develop.

All-inclusive cruise lines are looking for tours with price points under US$80 to offer the product for “free” to its passengers. PRTI suggests that vendors aim for pricing their tours between a range of US$36 to US$240.

The requirements to become a vendor for the 2017 season is to submit a proposal, adhere to the strict insurance requirements, provide marketing collateral to be presented to the cruise line, agree to the terms in the shore excursion contract and provide banking information.

These requirements are based on what the cruise lines require. If selected as a vendor for next year, PRTI collects funds from the ship, deducts a 5 per cent commission fee and deposits the rest of the money into the vendor’s account.

The due date to apply to be a shore excursion vendor next season is August 12. Stromdahl said he will work with people to make the tour sellable but he will also be frank with his feedback.