Cruise operators have managed to grow their business despite the financial and economic crisis that has blighted the world since the end of 2008. This growth looks SET to continue, and it may do so sharply according to three scenarios outlined by Alberto Cappato, the general secretary of the Istituto Internazionale delle Comunicazioni (International Institute of Communications, IIC) in Genoa, in the Plan Bleu study "Cruises and boating in the Mediterranean*".
Alberto Cappato claims the number of cruise passengers could increase by as much as 3% per year, with "global passenger numbers doubling to 38 million a year by 2050".
In the Mediterranean region, the number of overnight stays by cruise passengers will "increase to 50 million a year by 2050, involving between 6 million and 16 million passengers depending on the forecast, compared with 4.5 million in 2010".
The middle forecast is for 12.3 million Mediterranean cruise passengers in 2050, while the 'strong growth' scenario predicts 16 million passengers in the same year. Even the least optimistic scenario forecasts growth, predicting 5.8 million passengers in 2050.
Sluggish supply, soaring demand
The financial crisis has had an impact on the sector, but on supply rather than demand. Shipyards' order books are emptying: eight ships are being built in 2011, but only one is scheduled for construction in 2014. On the other hand, these ships are able to have more passengers on board than they used to.
Greece, Italy and Spain have the lion's share of overnight stays by cruise passengers, with more than 4 million in 2009. The economic benefits do not come directly from this phenomenon, however. They are felt most strongly in the northern Mediterranean, but also in departure ports rather than stopover ports, explains Julien Le Tellier, coordinator of Plan Bleu's "Tourism and sustainable development in the Mediterranean" activity programme.
Italy leads the way
In the Plan Bleu report "Socio-economic assessment of maritime economic activities in the Mediterranean" (Med Sea project), Lina Tode claims that in 2009, "departure ports generated an average turnover of €282m, compared with €8m for stopover ports".
Most of the 24 departure ports (out of 150 cruise ports), which welcome cruise passengers for longer and get more benefit from the growth of the sector, are in Italy, where most of the cruise operators are based. Italy captures 60% of the added value of the Mediterranean cruise industry, the annual revenue and the jobs in the sector. There are nearly 50,000 jobs in Italy directly related to the cruise industry, compared with less than 10,000 in Greece, which has a similar number of overnight stops.
*This study is part of a programme of activities on tourism in the Mediterranean region which also looks at "Air transport and energy management", "Sustainability profiles of tourist destinations" and the "Tourism indicator test to monitor the Mediterranean strategy for sustainable development". As well as the publications scheduled at the end of this programme, all works will be reproduced and discussed during a regional experience-sharing seminar hosted by Plan Bleu in December 2011.