By Thanos Pallis
Caring about performance, economic impact and users satisfaction
Cruise ports in the Mediterranean and its adjoining seas continue to adapt to new levels of demand, hosting bigger cruise vessels and seeking ways to accompany the contribution of cruising to port-cities and local communities with positive experiences for all their users.
Celebrating 20 years of MedCruise, our association surveyed the practices applied by MedCruise port members to further advance their cruise businesses. As detailed in the celebratory publication ‘Ports Together’, these strategies are associated extensively measuring port performance, completing economic impact studies, and measuring and sharing cruise port users’ satisfaction levels.
Cruise activities in the Mediterranean are growing and the supply chain associated with cruise ports is expanding. Adaptation to demands goes hand-in-hand with social responsibility, and MedCruise provides a platform to share and further improve these strategies.
When MedCruise members are looking to measure port performance, security tops the list as the most influential determinant, and the turbulence existing in many places around the world makes this justifiable. Not surprisingly, security performance in cruise ports in the Mediterranean and its adjoining seas is second to none.
Passenger satisfaction is the second most important criterion, with cost considerations, efficiency of operations and quality of infrastructure concluding the top five performance criteria.
Ports also perform economic impact studies, aiming to highlight and understand the precise impact that cruise growth brings to local communities and destinations. Some 85% of Mediterranean cruise ports develop such studies. Plenty of them do so internally, using the expertise of their own personnel, whereas 21% of them outsource to third parties.
Notably, almost four out of ten cruise ports conduct economic impact studies in cooperation with other entities such as local authorities and chambers of commerce. This enables them to conduct more comprehensive exercises with increased credibility.
Cruise ports in the Mediterranean and its adjoining seas – the second biggest cruise region of the world – have gone a long way in measuring the perspectives and levels of satisfaction of their users. The measurement of users’ satisfaction has become a standard practice for most cruise ports. 72,9% cruise ports conduct regular users’ satisfaction surveys. Around 56% receive feedback from the passengers, 71% from the cruise lines, 62% from shipping agents, 50% from travel agents and 25% from service providers. Whereas 80% discuss the findings of these exercises internally, six out of ten share them with external stakeholders. One out of three cruise ports make these results available to the general public.
Performance measurement has always been a key issue for all types of ports. Port managers, whether port authorities or terminal operators, need to organise complex processes in an efficient and effective way to find the best ways to capture value for their customers and address the concerns of stakeholders.
For many, port performance is associated with operational efficiency alone. Physical quantities of items used, levels of effort expended, scale or scope of activities, and efficiency in converting resources into port services have always captured centre stage. Several indicators are used to benchmark current performance against prior year performance and against competitor performance, so as to deliver efficiency objectives.
However, competitiveness is also a product of effectiveness in delivering desired services to both customers and users. Stakeholders’ perceptions and satisfaction are increasingly vital for correcting flaws that the port’s network might experience.
Measuring users’ perspectives helps managers to understand the current situation and eventually address issues to improve experiences with the port. Insights into users’ perspectives assists cruise ports in setting priorities, such as pointing out areas needing the greatest investment for improvement, and identifying the areas where a cruise port already delivers value. In the latter case, the port could benefit from marketing initiatives to raise awareness.
Not surprisingly, Mediterranean cruise port authorities increasingly acknowledge the importance of measuring user satisfaction levels. Still, there is room for improvement in many respects.
First, there is scope to expand these exercises to involve all stakeholders, and spread the concept of measuring users’ perspectives in all respects. Second, it is important to identify the right indicators that allow meaningful insights on users’ experiences with port services.
Third, it is worth becoming more sophisticated. For instance, this could entail measuring the gap between the importance of certain port features and the performance of the cruise port as regards the particular feature, so that the cruise port management team understands the meaning of what respondents said and can develop strategic plans for investment and marketing.
All these – along with better economic impact studies and performance measurements – can be achieved by sharing best practices and increasing the awareness of the cruise community on the importance of such exercises. Cruise ports associations like MedCruise provide ports with efficient and effective platforms to achieve them.
MedCruise port members survey: key facts
85% of Mediterranean cruise ports develop economic impact studies – 27% internally, 21% outsourced, 37% in cooperation with public bodies
72,9% cruise ports conduct regular user satisfaction surveys – 80% discuss them internally, 60% share with external stakeholders, 31% share with the general public
Security is the most influential port performance criterion – Passenger satisfaction, cost considerations, efficiency of operations and quality of infrastructure make up the top five