the globe the attractiveness of these ports and the associated destinations, we smooth the spreading of best practices in more cruise ports and make the presence of such practices known, and, not least, we facilitate any other essential adjustments via interactions with cruise lines.
Expanding further the constructive and collaborative work already that had been done since the establishment of MedCruise sustains as a major daily excitement for all us involved in the Association. Besides, we have realised that working together our members can represent an even more attractive choice for the cruise lines and passengers. Preserving and enriching the diversity of the experiences offered in our members has all the prospects to strengthen their presence in the cruise industry.
How does MedCruise promote the cruise industry in the Mediterranean and adjoining seas?
Our Association offers to all ports and associate members a unique range of services. We facilitate their interaction with cruise lines, through business-to-business meetings. We provide the infrastructure to our members to be present in all major cruise related events around the globe, whether these are happening in Europe, America, and Asia. National events are also happenings where MedCruise is also present allowing our members to interact with cruise liners and other stakeholders. In most cases, all MedCruise members might exhibit inside the MedCruise Pavilion enjoying preferential treatment in terms of location, centrality and cost of space.
Beyond marketing and promotion, we represent Med ports in decision-making fora, promoting a meaningful policy agenda to advance their interest. At the same time, we develop studies allowing the sharing of best practices, and benchmarking, while we organise professional development courses that enable our members to advance their knowledge and ultimately improve their daily work and long-term strategies.
MedCruise has been instrumental in promoting the collaboration of cruise ports in Europe. Last year we formed the Network of Cruise and Ferry Ports, that is set within the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO), and brings together all cruise ports of Europe to promote best practices.
At European level, MedCruise has also played a key role in putting the promotion of cruising in the agenda of the European institutions. Last March marked the official opening by the European Commission of a pan-European dialogue searching for a long-term strategy, that has the potential to benefit cruising throughout Europe.
Finally, I need to emphasize that we are the first Association that visited Asia, in fact we did so for two successive years, as we see there a first-class opportunity to develop a source market that will bring more cruise passengers in the Med in the future. MedCruise is heading ‘East’ with this expansion including the participation in cruise events in Asia, the circulation of special brochures in Chinese and Korean presenting the attractiveness of the Mediterranean region, the publication of three editions of related promotional videos, while right now we are working on a targeted marketing strategy exclusively focusing on the Chinese market.
How do members benefit from their association to MedCruise?
The Association assists its members in benefiting from the growth of the cruise industry by providing networking, as well as promotional and professional development opportunities. Some of the key benefits that the Association offers to its membership are listed above.
Internally, our members are actively involved in the work of the Association. The sharing of experiences, the collaboration between our members have helped them to increase the value of their work and improve the services the port of the region offer to cruise lines. The platform we regularly offer them to discuss with cruise lines is offering unique opportunity to them. While these are not always evident to observers, it is an accomplishment acknowledged by our members and has a significant impact to the improvement of the cruise services offered by MedCruise ports.
Do you foresee future growth within the cruise industry in the Mediterranean?
Over the last decade ports in the Med experienced the benefits of expansionary deployment strategy by cruise lines. The impact is remarkable in all respects: 197% growth of deployed bed days since 2002, and a 49% growth of deployed bed days since 2008. The trend continued even when the global financial crisis of 2008 affected the passengers source markets most of all, or the multiple political and economic crisis became evident in the region more recently. Cruise in the Med has survived the ‘perfect storm’.
Given the strong consumer interest in cruising, the expansion of destinations and itineraries, and not least the further modernisation of the cruise fleet and cruise product, stakeholders look forward to further growth. The comparatively moderate estimates forecasts that the number of passengers to cruise worldwide in 2018 to be more than 24 million.
Whether the Mediterranean region will continue to grow, either in absolute numbers, or in terms of market shares, is subject to a number of parameters. With cruise ports continuing to respond to the challenges, to adapt operational practices and infrastructures, and to advance the integration of the cruise related strategies of various destination stakeholders, the wide variety of cruise destinations, features, and cultures in the Med and its adjoining seas is a positive background for opportunities for expansion to be realised.
How relevant is Gibraltar's cruise industry compared to other players in the Mediterranean?
Gibraltar is a cruise destination that has for long attracted the genuine interest of cruise passengers and cruise lines. Two hundred cruise calls and approximately 300.000 passengers visit Gibraltar every year, with the port adjusting continuously and effectively to the challenges that occur.
There are all the prospects that this will continue to be a cruise destination of interest, an essential passage in some of the most exciting cruise itineraries in the Med. As such, cruise will continue to generate value and benefit the local economy.
Mediterranean cruises are appealing to tourists. What are the main advantages?
The Mediterranean Sea is a unique world region. It unites three continents and more than 20 different countries with diverge cultural identities. This is unique in all respects. Within cruise itineraries that last between four and 15 days, cruise passengers have the opportunity to sense the history, the culture, the food, the music, the people of an impressive mix of civilizations that no other cruise region provides. The short distances and thus travelling time in between destinations is an additional plus for the region, enabling first time cruisers to pick the destinations of their dreams, and to repeaters to select from a variety of destinations. Not surprisingly this is frequently named as ‘a region made for cruising’.
What has been the greatest achievement of your career?
Working in the port industry and studying ports for more than two decades, I would highlight three best moments. The first one was the trust of UNCTAD and OECD to work for them on the financing of port developments, and on cruise shipping and cruise port respectively. The second one was my appointment by the Greek Government as General Secretary for Ports and port policy. Last, but not least, a key achievement has been the decision of MedCruise to renew my term as Secretary General of the Association for a second term.
Your memorable cruise ship experience:
The first one, being a youngster in the early 1980’s cruising the gulf of Saronicos in Greece with my parents onboard an Epirotiki Lines vessel continues to be the magical cruise moment of my life.
Your favourite book:
You learn a lot reading history, so I would mention “The Age of Extremes: The short 20th century” by my favorite historian, the late Eric Hobsbawm.
Your favourite cruise ship:
I have to admit that I was impressed when on board Oasis of the Seas. Yet each vessel I have visited has its own unique charm to be discovered – an open invitation to join a cruise.
Editor, Marine Strategy
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