Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

"The cruise ship is becoming the very object of desire"

Etienne Pauchant, president of META - Mediterranean Tourism Association

Written by interview by Astrid Jousset on Wednesday, March 27th 2013 à 14:10 | Read 483 times

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Etienne Pauchant, president of META (photo DR)
Etienne Pauchant, president of META (photo DR) How big is the Mediterranean cruise market in relation to other tourism markets (seaside, cultural, etc.)?

Etienne Pauchant: It is very small. We are talking around 5 million cruise passenger arrivals in Europe each year out of a total of 300 million arrivals. The bases are essentially in Europe (Barcelona in Spain, Italy and France chiefly), with very few embarkations on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean.

A small market therefore in comparison to seaside tourism for example (which accounts for 33% of total Mediterranean tourism according to a META estimation), although the number of cruise passengers is steadily increasing.

Furthermore, the number of tourism activities is increasing. From seaside resorts and cruises to skiing and hiking, the activities are wide-ranging and up to now not one of these different markets has been assessed in terms of its share of Mediterranean tourism. What developments have you noticed in this sector?

E.P.: The most striking development concerns the size of the cruise ships. In search of short stopovers, several generations of the same family set off on a cruise and hope to fulfil their needs (sport, children’s entertainment, restaurant, cinema, relaxation, etc.). Thus, the gigantic size of the cruise ships is the clearest development that I have noticed. The cruise ship is becoming the very object of desire.

As for the ports of call, some are far from ideal. It is sometimes difficult to dock in certain narrow ports and boarding and disembarkation takes a long time. Although the demand for smaller vessels (quite often luxurious and easy to dock) is growing, large cruise ships still maintain the lead role in Mediterranean cruises.

Another development is that increasing numbers of non-Europeans are taking Mediterranean cruises. And yet, cruise passenger associations, for their part, lament the difficulties of obtaining a visa, a situation which hampers the arrival of cruise passengers and thereby affects their activity. Has the Arab Spring had an impact on the Mediterranean cruise market?

E.P.: The Arab Spring has not had any impact on the cruise market as generally cruise passengers do not get off the ship. No accident has been reported during the repatriation of tourists. I will even go as far as to say that, for the first time, tourism has brought peace and has generated wealth, GDP and employment. The willingness to respect the population and the tourists remains very real.

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