Asked by moderator Lucy Hockings, news presenter and anchor for BBC World News what makes them optimistic about the future Mediterreanean cruise market, David Dingle, chairman of Carnival UK said ‘we have China and other emerging passengers source markets out there looking to visit so I say go and grab it,’ whilst Stuart Leven, vp EMEA and md RCL Cruises said, ‘the current penetration in the European countries is so low and with the Med having so much to offer, the future can only be bright for this region.’
Eastern Med excites for the future
Neil Palomba, president of Costa Cruises referred to the rich culture of the Med’s heritage and referenced the Eastern Med, ‘as both a region that excites with opportunities for growth, whilst currently providing some obstacles.’
Pullmantur’s president and ceo Richard J. Vogel, giving a perspective from the Spanish market, said ‘we are making it so easy for the domestic market to start a cruise from home that it can only grow more.’
MedCruise president Airam Diaz Pastor said he was encouraged to hear that cruise lines are returning to Turkey and Israel and also soon to Egypt and potentially the Black Sea in 2019/2020, that MedCruise members located in the eastern stretches are forecasting strong growth in the coming years.
Cruise unfairly blamed for overtourism
On the often prickly subject of overtourism in some marquee ports, Vogel said it is unfair to single out the cruise industry as the culprite when five ships call in one day in Barcelona and 20,000 passengers descend on the Ramblas: ‘Nobody is saying to the airport or the train companies please reduce your capacity.’
He continued, the cruise industry has to plan for demand five or even ten years in advance but are ports and cities keeping ahead of what infrastructure they may need in the short and medium future?
On the general issue of overtourism Dingle pointed to the fact, ‘even in the most visited ports – Barcelona, Venice, Dubrovnik, Bergen – cruise tourists make up only around 5% of all visitors (although nevertheless making a significant economic contribution), we are working hard with municipalities, port authorities and other tourist organisations such as the World Travel and Tourism Council to play our part in mitigating congestion and preserving the heritage, character and lifestyle of these precious locations.'
Dingle called it a collaborative effort, 'and we rely on all of you who operate in these destinations – port authorities, tour operators, tourism officials – to help us deliver our goals and deliver the message that we are a force for good.’
Cruise the leader in shipping's environmental performance
On the cruise industry’s environmental performance, Dingle outlined, ‘for a long time we have strictly adhered to and often exceeded regulations applying to solid waste and water emissions. Now the focus is firmly on air emissions, both air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. I spend a considerable amount of my time working with the wider shipping industry, and I am very proud that the cruise industry is the clear leader in this space. We are often held in awe not just by other shipping sectors but the aviation sector too.’
He continued, ‘Our industry is working hard to retrofit exhaust gas cleaning systems into its existing ships – 43% of cruise ships have them so far. This is an enormous feat considered the limited manufacturing capacity of these systems and the fact that properly equipping a ship can cost well over $5m. 48% of new orders will have these systems, and another 34% will not need them at all because they will be powered by LNG which emits no sulphur and almost no nitrogen compounds and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20%.
‘With LNG as the next generation of marine fuel, combined with speed optimisation and other operational efficiencies for existing ships, our industry is well on the way to meet the IMO’s target of a 40% rate reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030. ‘
Turning the focus on Brexit, Hockings asked if anyone had a concern: ‘Naturally we are worried if the immigration procedures will change and are we headed back to ancient times when you required face to face clearance on immigration,’ remarked Gianni Onorato, ceo MSC Cruises.
Royal Caribbean’s Leven, called Brexit ‘an inconvenience and may effect our freedom of movement regulations,’ but said, ‘ABTA is quoting the demand in 2019 holiday purchases from the UK is greater now than last year, so it is unlikely to stop UK consumers from buying holidays abroad.’
Onorato suggested Brexit may provide an opportunity for the UK ports to grow as they would be outside the EU and therefore exempt for VAT charges on onboard sales.
Visit the Seatrade Cruise Med blog for highlights, pictures and tweets from the show.