Cruise Europe signs contract with Zielia to further enhance its port presence with the cruiselines
CE continues in its tradition of being groundbreaking by joining the fledgling site with a view to the bigger, future picture.
The platform is based on the five pillars of itinerary planning: destination, port, attractions, marketing and calendar. Shannon McKee, co-founder of Zielia, comments: “We are mindful of the worldwide crisis affecting the industry and look forward to providing the much-needed support to our clients and partners. It is our goal to be an integral source that helps cruiselines and destinations create partnerships that assist with revitalising the industry.”
Michael McCarthy, chairman CE, says: “The role of CE is now more critical than ever during this unprecedented and catastrophic pandemic for so many in society as well as business. Clearly this global crisis will change us, what we do and how we do it. Our inter-dependence as an industry has assisted our mutual development, kept us strong and now more than ever will help us emerge from this together.”
CE began discussions with Zielia in September 2019 but now sees the partnership as an even more vital part of its total offering in supporting the industry. “The corona crisis has made our [Zielia] recommendation vital to the cruiseline executives who are restricted from foreign travel and will have all the required information from our ports and regions on one platform,” he adds.
“The future of CE is linked through our partnership with cruiselines. We are all anxious to re-open our regions and ports and assist in every way possible to re-commence operations. Zielia, as a new strategy, is the future of our business. It is important that we are ready for the recovery because there are many things that can be done now that will be successful no matter what the future conditions. We believe that Zielia is one such progressive platform.”
The three-year renegotiated original deal begins this year when Zielia sources information about members from the CE website. Thereafter, all the members have to do is to fine tune information on receipt of a draft from Zielia. Each individual member must be in control of copyrights of any picture or video uploaded to www.cruiseeurope.com.
No member will pay any extra fee in the years 2020 to 2022 but from 2023 onwards each member can opt to remain with or leave the platform.
Commenting on the partnership, senior director of deployment and itinerary planning at Seabourn, Timothy Littley told CE: “In my personal opinion, I regard it to be a helpful development. Now, more than ever, do we need centralised, reliable and accurate destination information. Having a one-stop online platform where I can research and engage with cruise destinations is a big time saver. I have already included it in my itinerary design workflow.
“For CE members I also see benefit to their collaboration. As such, I am encouraged to see the members engage with the platform and the development team. Many deployment and itinerary planners I have spoken with informally have also indicated their preference for utilising such a platform and I foresee that, over time, it will become a standard practice for destinations to provide up-to-date information in this manner. This is an unprecedented time for the travel industry and looking ahead I believe that it is incumbent on us to embrace better tools and innovative methods of digital communication and delivery.”
Cruise Europe members took the opportunity to join online presentations from Zielia this week and last to better understand the product.
Key to Zielia’s success is a comprehensive and worldwide population of ports and destinations as Piet Vandenkerkhove, public relations & cruises Port of Zeebrugge, comments: “The platform only has value if the information provided is comprehensive and if it has enough users. From both sides: lines and ports.
“Cruiselines and ports/destinations are in the same boat but we think differently on a number of subjects, mainly because every destination is different, with a specific focus.” Following a second presentation, he says: “I found out that the platform is more elaborate that I initially thought with choices for the ports to determine who sees what information. This, of course, increases the appeal of the platform because in this way it almost becomes a one-stop-shop for an itinerary planner looking for ports/destinations in North-European waters.”
Commenting on the undoubted value of CE in the cruise industry, he adds: “In our part of the world, if you are not a CE member, it is almost as if you do not exist. It should be Zielia’s ambition to become equally essential.”
"The deal CE has now struck with Zielia sounds promising. The 2020-2022 spell now gives Zielia and the ports an all-important test period: to assess if the platform can provide more calls for a destination and whether the platform is worth the (future) investment. We get to know the platform and maybe, through remarks and suggestions, we even get to fine tune it.”
Vandenkerkhove already has some suggestions in this respect. “Could the platform link up with the ports individual IT-systems to adjust its cruise calendar? There is little added value in a system where we, the ports, should have to adjust this calendar manually every time something changes. There is a big chance these changes could be forgotten which would lead to unreliable information on the platform.”
“Another (very) big question is if Zielia has plans to make the platform reciprocal, meaning that cruise line information (eg ship plans with indication of shell doors etc) could be available for the ports?”
Last but not least is the question of fees in the future. Will large ports such as Southampton have to pay the same amount as Honfleur. “An annual subscription fee might be an obstacle to getting the smaller ones on board. The amount of subscribers will ultimately decide if Zielia becomes a success or not.”
Time will tell tell but he is keen to encourage fellow members to get on board during the trial period. “Zielia offers more room for information than the CE website. Let’s convince our members to take time to provide input to the platform. This is the least we can do if we don’t have to pay for it individually for two years.”
Valerie Conan, director cruise department Le Havre-Etretat Tourism, sees it as a “unique opportunity to give it a full-scale test” without adding any additional workload as the data will be extracted from the CE website. “I can’t wait to see how the cruiselines use it, which will motivate our team to feed it as they go”.
On the operations side, she adds: “This will allow us to be responsive, to present the new sanitary measures when they are implemented in terminals, for example. We will be able to offer our tourist products and welcome measures in the destination. Regarding itinerary planning, this will allow the cruiselines to imagine new plans to restart.
"During this particular period, the annual event of Seatrade Cruise Global didn’t take place. It is usually one of the annual stops to talk to cruiselines representatives. Zielia is an adapted tool to help us fill this gap and keep a permanent link. Ultimately, we hope to reach a wider audience within the cruiseline employees and to save time for everyone.”
Stefan Scheja, manager cruise & ferry Ports of Stockholm likes the function that enables sharing, or not, of different information to different users. He says: “Zielia is a very good initiative from CE. Everything in one place, worldwide. This will be a good compliment to other platforms that we already have up and running in our region, The Baltic. As a user I think the layouts are user-friendly, and also easy to edit for the destinations.”
Inevitably those ports which keep their CE website pages up to date will be in a better position than those that do not. There has been some concern about how much extra time CE members will have to spend in updating pages, hence the initial deal struck that means Zielia will populate the information from the CE to its website.
Allison McGuire, cruise manager Invergordon, asks whether there is a possibility that this could be done on a regular basis so that any changes made to a CE page in future would automatically occur on Zielia. “The reason for the question is that the majority of ports are very busy, some only have a limited amount of staff to work on the websites. I currently have three web pages in various organisations that need updating and now Zielia will be the fourth. If cruiselines are only searching/looking at Zielia, then I can see members giving the Zielia pages priority, and all other platforms/websites may lack the attention they need.”
McKee explains that the initial population was done manually for the speed of start-up but adds: “We are working on a longer-term solution that would scrape the data on an ongoing basis from the website. We are certainly open to better understand your needs and determine an ongoing solution.”
Finally, a comment comes from associate member Excursions Ireland. Managing director Niamh McCarthy, says: “In these climates, more and more cruise executives are unable to travel with their excessive work load so this is an excellent platform for them to access within one click. They can make a decision on a port/region by not only looking at the technical information but also information on the region and indeed access to shore excursions, which in Europe is one of their biggest revenue earners.
“To be able to access this information from one source will be invaluable to these decision makers and result in Europe being a step ahead of some of the other regions worldwide. Add the current economic crisis into the mix and the uncertainty of planned upcoming itineraries and you have this immediate source to drag from that can enable you to plan/amend new itineraries with great haste once cruising is given the green light. I think in light of the world being more and more digitised we must be ahead of the game and give ease of planning to those who choose the route for our beloved cruise ships.”
*Zielia combines the German word ziel (meaning destination or goal) with the Greek ending -ia, hence meaning many destinations.