Cayman embraces Taxi Pride

Around 40 local taxi and tour operators turned out at a special customer service workshop this week aimed at improving their service skills with cruise passengers.

Organised by the Department of Tourism and the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, the workshop was specifically designed for all tour operators and owners, taxi drivers and dispatchers.

The FCCA’s Adam Cesarano hosted the workshop Monday morning at the Grand Cayman Marriott Resort.

This is one of a series of training seminars available to Caribbean destinations in order to be of mutual benefit to Caribbean taxi drivers and the cruise industry.

The aim of the workshops is to provide the industry’s destination partners with valuable information regarding cruise passengers, their wants, needs and habits, enabling governments and businesses to maximize the impact of cruise tourists in their country.

The one thing Cayman has that is truly different to other Caribbean countries that host cruise ships is its Caymanian people, Mr. Cesarano said. ‘You are the people who make a difference. You will all be the first people the passengers interact with.’

Mr. Cesarano told attendees that they cannot simply pick and choose who they are nice to because they never know who they will get a good tip from.

He urged them not to surround cruise passengers as they emerge from the cruise terminal as this is off-putting and intimidating to tourists. Touching or trying to coax business out of passengers by following them is not appropriate either, he said.

He said that everyone was really at the workshop to find out how they could make more money, but all partners need to work together on this and to improve the Grand Cayman experience for cruise tourists.

Noting that bad news travels fast he said, ‘Give them nothing to talk about’, explaining that bad customer service is always noticeable.

A short video was shown, describing ways to engage a customer in a friendly manner, such as welcoming them, using their name, saying thank you to them and inviting them back to visit again.

Mr. Cesarano asked if everyone in the room enjoyed their job. To the majority of ‘yes’ replies, he said ‘Good. You shouldn’t really be in this industry if you don’t enjoy your job’.

First impressions, of course, are critical. Mr. Cesarano noted that 80 per cent of communication is non-verbal, so it is important to look professional and neat and to have a clean, well kept vehicle. Friendliness and knowledge about the island are also highly important.

He also described the growth of the cruise industry, explaining that it means more business for taxi drivers. For instance, between 2006 and 2009 the Cruise Lines International Association member cruise lines will invest $13.5 billion in 22 state-of-the-art new ships. As they grow the ships are becoming more and more hi-tech, he said.

Pointing out how important it is to give a good impression to cruise visitors Mr. Cesarano said over 85 per cent of cruise passengers think that cruising is an important vehicle for sampling destination areas to which they may return. He added that nearly 50 per cent fully expect to return to the sample geographical area/destination for a land-based vacation.

According to the FCCA, cruisers are not exclusively cruisers; they are frequent vacationers that cruise as part of their vacation mix. They average over three (3.3) trips each year, thereby taking nine other non-cruise vacations in the three year period.

The FCCA points out that the typical cruise ship carrying 2,000 passengers and 900 crew members generates almost $259,000 in passenger and crew expenditures during a port of call visit per ship.

The workshop also gave tips on grooming, courtesy and professionalism, rules of the road and safety of the passengers, cab care checklist and dealing with difficult guests.

Another workshop, Service Excellence Cruise Passengers Equal Profits Programme was to take place, Tuesday 23 May at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort.