The Port of Cartagena has given its approval to new modifications for the tariffs applicable to ships, freight and passengers, which will make it the second cheapest in terms of passenger tariffs in Spain, and the third cheapest for freight.
According to the Port Authority, only Tarragona has cheaper tariffs for ships and passengers, while for freight tariffs Cartagena is still more expensive than the Balearic Islands and Huelva.
At the same time, approval has been given for a system by which tourist cruise ships will receive special discounts, benefiting from reductions of between 30% and 40% on both ship and passenger tariffs, depending on the number of times they visit the port.
But is dropping fares the way to increase cruise ship visits?
There is certainly a massive market for cruise tourism in Spain, and at the moment. Cartagena receives just a small fraction of the potential traffic which exists.
In 2011 Barcelona topped the list of Spanish cruise destinations with 2,642.493 passengers, followed by the Balearics, which had 1,614.499 visitors.
Cartagena experienced a decrease in cruise traffic of -15.5% during 2011, it's numbers of visitors reducing to 88,081, a drop of over 15%, whereas Alicante, which has been pushing hard to increase its cruise offering, increased its cruise ship visitors by 43.06%, to 108.435 passengers.
During 2011, Cartagena dropped from 9th to 10th place in the cruise ship league table.
Plenty of press coverage has been given to the feedback from the few cruise ship visitors interviewed by this product, as part of ongoing research to fulfil the needs of potential readers, who on several occasions, has asked returning passengers how much they enjoyed their visit to Cartagena.
The overwhelming feedback was always yes, they liked Cartagena, they liked the proximity of the port to the city, they enjoyed the historical locations which they visited, but it would have been nice if there were more shops open and more shops easily accessible from the port area.
Although an association has been set up in Cartagena to try and ensure some shops always open, when vessels dock on a holiday or on a Sunday, passengers don't get what they want, and due to the intransigence of the smaller business associations, even the major shopping centre of the Parque Mediterráneo is denied permission to open, so cruise passengers can't even take a taxi and do the shopping they would like to do, thus injecting more money into the local economy.
Cartagena has vast potential as a cruise destination, but currently faces many hills which it has to climb in order to convert itself into an offering, which will bring positive customer feedback forms on board the vessels.
There are many, many small things which prevent it from achieving its potential, the biggest of which is a lack of understanding of just how competitive the cruise ship market is, how valuable the income generated from the cruise market can be when it is marketed and worked to its full potential, and that the needs of the customer are far more important than the convenience of the vendor.
This is a dog eat dog market, and there is a lot of money at stake. The customer has choice and will go where they feel their business is appreciated and where their NEEDS are best looked after.
Reducing the price of Port tariffs may interest those running the cruises, but unless the attitude towards customer satisfaction changes, the customer survey forms won´t.
The customer is King. Some business rules never change, no matter in which country they are applied.
Time to go back to basics.
Statistics quoted: Ministry of Fomento, monthly port traffic reports.
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