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Welcoming cruise ship guests to Busselton and the region – a guide for retailers and high street business

By February 5, 2024February 14th, 2024Cruise Ships, Get Involved

With the regular arrival of cruise ships to the region each season from October to April, below is a guide for local retailers and businesses to help understand this visitor market to assist with considerations and opportunities to engage with the cruise visitor.

Introduction to cruise visitors

Not all cruise ships are the same, and neither are their passengers!

Like different hotel and resort brands, the cruise industry is made up of several styles of cruise lines, varying ship sizes, capacities, amenities, inclusions and price points.

Each brand may also attract a different market in terms of passenger demographics (age, nationality, couples, families) and interests (nature and coast, culture and history, culinary journeys).

Cruise lines typically enjoy loyal and repeat visitors, while some ships and itineraries are designed to attract first-time cruise passengers. Passengers typically turn to cruising for the benefits and conveniences that cruising affords, including:

  • Visiting multiple destinations and unpacking once
  • Offering value with transport, accommodation, most meals and some activities inclusive in the package
  • Opportunity to meet new people through many social activities aboard
  • The sense of nostalgia and romance associated with sea travel
  • Accessibility to remote destinations and onboard services

More than 6 in 10 passengers report returning to a destination they first experienced or visited by cruise ship.

A day trip to Busselton as part of a West Australian, national or international cruise itinerary gives passengers just a small taste of what’s on offer in the region and is the perfect opportunity to encourage guests to return or share experiences with their friends. Some cruise itineraries also start or finish in Fremantle and guests will often extend their WA trip to the region through a pre or post-cruise drive itinerary.

Cruise passenger types

Cruise ship passengers can be grouped into three categories when it comes to shore based visits and activities in Busselton:

  • Guests with pre-booked shore-excursion tours, booked via the ship or arranged independently. These are high-value travellers who have done their homework and are keen to explore beyond Busselton and the foreshore.

These passengers will often get priority disembarkation aboard tender transfers (ship anchor point to Busselton Jetty tender berthing platform). Often these programs are half-day duration and passengers might explore Busselton on foot, post their tour program if time or interest allows.

  • Those without pre-booked arrangements who will come ashore to explore for a half or full day of free leisure time and may make last-minute arrangements ashore or participate in impulse purchases for discretionary items such as locally made art, craft, food & wine products, and local souvenirs. Many will also seek essential products and services (e.g. chemists, supermarkets, the forgotten phone charger) as they disperse through the destination.

In collaboration with the City of Busselton, the MRBTA provides a foreshore meet & greet service to welcome and encourage the dispersal of these visitors for their time ashore. Services include the provision of a welcome and information tent and trained volunteers to provide advice, wayfinding, maps & brochures as well as a town centre hop-on-hop-off shuttle service (subject to the size of the ship).

  • Those who might stay aboard the ship to make use of ship amenities or due to limited mobility or accessibility to use the tender transport to shore (given Busselton is a tender port).
  • It is also important to remember the value of ship crew who may have shore leave while the ship is anchored – the crew will often seek services such as supermarkets, chemists, the post office or venues with free wifi (so they can chat with family back home). They may also buy small, incidental gifts or souvenirs to take home and their feedback, along with the passenger is also an important metric for future cruise itinerary planning.

Industry trends and insights tell us that passengers seek immersion in the destination during their stay with friendly, warm and authentic experiences, true to the culture and values of the community that live there.

The following tips and tricks will help town retailers and business to attract, engage and connect with this particular visitor market segment:

Be aware, accessible & flexible with ship visits

  • Bookmark the online Busselton Cruise Ship Arrival Schedule and familiarise yourself with key dates and duration of visits
  • Consider extending or adapting your business hours on cruise ship arrival days
  • As a general guide, most will anchor to allow for a full-day visit and some will extend their time to an evening departure to allow for more time ashore
  • Cruise tenders will start to disembark at the foreshore about 1-1.5 hours after arrival (anchor) time and will cease an hour before departure. Peak foot traffic is often mid-morning to mid-afternoon
  • Be aware that Busselton is a tender port which means the scheduled anchoring and transfer of passengers to shore via tenders, is subject to weather conditions and the safety of passengers and crew. Occasionally ship calls might be changed or cancelled with short notice

First impressions matter

  • Ensure your storefront or entry area is welcoming, accessible and visually appealing
  • Consider some themed welcome signage, an entry or window display that includes the ship name and co-brands with your offering
  • Create and promote a special offer or value-add to ship passengers, visible from the entry or first contact point
  • Appeal to the senses by offering product samples for tasting, smell, sound or feel

Be a local ambassador

A meet & greet passenger welcome service is provided at the Busselton Foreshore by the Busselton Visitor Centre and a passionate team of cruise volunteers, however lets work to extend that warmth and hospitality as passengers explore through the town centre or the region

  • Train staff to be knowledgeable about neighbouring businesses, local points of interest or public amenities
  • Have a local Discover Busselton map available to assist with wayfinding
  • Share local short stories, history, or interesting facts
  • Be aware of cultural sensitivities and potential language/accent barriers – remember, most communication is perceived via body language, voice and tone

Provide a warm welcome and memorable stay to help encourage return visitation

  • Welcome passengers with a warm and friendly greeting
  • Ask about their trip, interests or where they are visiting from (this will help you to suggest products or services to meet their needs today and in future)
  • Create a themed display that might highlight or showcase your products that might suit their interest
  • Use positive language by highlighting what you can do, rather than what you can’t

Highlight products & services to suit passenger needs

  • Showcase unique or local products/ingredients/artists in gifts, wares or daily menus
  • Think about a range of price points and item sizes & weight for travel convenience
  • Provide extra convenience or remove barriers to purchase by providing a freight or home delivery option for larger, delicate, expensive or alcoholic items. Capture their return to origin date (post travel) and schedule deliveries accordingly for added peace of mind. There are specific rules for the cruise line or customs policies that passengers will have to consider when buying food, alcohol, animal products or woodwork. Most will allow purchases to be brought on board via a stowage service but some may not allow consumption onboard
  • Meals are often inclusive aboard the ship so when it comes to a cafe, bar or restaurant offering, think about snack size, share plates, highlighting local produce or lighter fare
  • Value-add by combining items for a set price or providing a small free gift with purchase with sighting of a passenger card (e.g. Coral Princess local ground coffee & cake, Crystal Serenity chardonnay & local fish special, Azamara pale ale & truffle arancini, local artist bookmark with every book purchase)

Don’t forget the ship crew!

  • Crew with shore leave are looking to stretch their legs, take a break from crew meals, top up on some essential items and catch a few pleasant hours away from where they live and work aboard
  • Offer crew deals, specials or free upsizes upon presentation of crew ID

To learn more about the cruise sector or how your business can be involved, please contact the Industry team on 08 9780 5959 or [email protected]