Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Mediterranean cruises – an historic winning bet 

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Wednesday, March 27th 2013 à 15:19 | Read 528 times

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Port of Genoa (photo F.Dubessy)
Port of Genoa (photo F.Dubessy)

From the 22nd January to the 22nd March 1891, 241 passengers sailed on board the Augusta Victoria in the Mediterranean. They are considered to be the first ever cruise passengers. The ship’s owner (Hamburg America Line - HAPAG) wanted to make its transatlantic liner profitable in the off-season.

However, it would not be until the 1960s that Mediterranean cruises became popular, subsequently developing into a mass market by the mid-1990s with the arrival of the first mega cruise ships. Over the past 25 years, up to the current boom, the market has experienced both ups and downs.
“The Mediterranean cruise market grew 3% between 1985 and 1990 only to fall heavily (-45%) between 1990 and 1995, before experiencing high levels of growth: 106% between 1995 and 2000, 55% between 2000 and 2005, and 57% between 2005 and 2009” states a memo published in November 2012 by Plan Bleu. The Mediterranean environment and development observatory does not hesitate to talk of “a greater resilience of the cruise industry compared to seaside tourism” because, at the same time, overall Mediterranean tourism activity (all sectors combined) has stagnated around an average 10% growth since the 2000s.

However, even with significant growth, the Mediterranean cruise market still only represents a tiny fraction of overall tourism activity in the Mediterranean, accounting for 1.4% of international arrivals in 1985 and 1.8% in 2009.
In 2004, there were 2.83 million European cruise passengers. Today the number stands at 6.2 million, representing a third of all cruise passengers in the world. In 2011, the number of passengers embarking from a European port (5.6 million passengers, of which 4.8 million were European) doubled.
The British, German and Italian cruise markets constitute the top three European cruise markets with 1.7 million, 1.38 million and 923,000 cruise passengers respectively. This ranking has remained unchanged for the last 8 years as shown in a 2012 study conducted by IRN Research on behalf of the European Cruise Council (an association bringing together all cruise operators that offer a service on the European cruise market – it became CLIA Europe (Cruise Lines International Association) in 2012). The Spanish cruise market is the fourth largest in Europe with 703,000 passengers, followed by the French cruise market with 441,000 passengers (exactly twice as many as in 2004). The Northern Mediterranean cruise markets (Italy, Spain and France) account for 34% of the European cruise market’s passengers.


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