Econostrum.info : How has Marseille returned to being a cruise port?
Jacques Truau : In 1992 the president of the Marseille-Provence Chambers of Commerce at the time, Henry Roux-Alezais, asked me as an elected member of that institution to think about a strategy that would improve activity in the port of Marseille. I had three months to prepare a dossier. Within this proposal emerged the development of passenger traffic and in particular of cruise passengers.
Together with the professionals and officials of the area we began by writing a cruise charter.
The idea was to demonstrate our willingness to develop the cruise market in Marseille with a high quality, reliable service. This charter was sent to all the international operators in April 1993.
And the companies took it up?
J.T. : Yes, but it was not all plain sailing. The Costa group told us: “even if you offer us stop overs for free, we won’t be coming to Marseille”. That let the wind out of our sails! The city was suffering from a bad reputation. After a site visit though, they departed convinced about the change in Marseille’s image. In 1996 they launched the first batch of stopovers, in the context of departures shared between Barcelona, Marseille and Genoa, on the week long Dolce Vita cruise on the Romantica. This amounted to 25 stopovers and 35,000 passengers. In 1997 the Royal Caribbean and the Splendour of the Seas arrived and then things really got going.
Merits of working in synergy
J.T. : To be valued in this market and to be seen as a proper port of call for these international companies, we needed to pass the 100,000 passenger threshold. Thus since 1994 we have been exhibitors at the Seatrade convention in Miami. In September 1996 we decided to form the “Club de la Croisière Marseille Provence”, with three backers:, the Marseille Provence Chambers of Commerce (CCIMP), the City of Marseille and the Grand port maritime de Marseille. We were quickly given additional support by the professional federations and institutional organisations; all those that had an interest in seeing the cruise market developed. The Club demonstrates the merits of working in synergy.
At the time it was a promotional tool that was unique in Europe and even in the world. We then helped many other port cities to develop their own clubs.