Spain is the second most important destination for cruise holidays in Europe, second only to Italy. Spanish cruise ports received nearly 6 million passengers last year, a level that the port authorities are keen to maintain, and improve. Port charges have been reduced with the intention of making it more attractive for cruise lines. Facilities at ports are being continually updated whilst air connections are being enhanced for fly cruise holidays.
The Port of Barcelona is currently the largest cruise port in the Mediterranean, with seven terminals available, and two more on the way. Valencia is also expanding its facilities, whilst Malaga, the Balearics and the Canaries are extending their ports to accommodate larger vessels.
The cruise business has grown even during the recession. According to the International Association of Cruise Lines (CLIA), global demand increased by 77% over the last decade, reaching 21.3 million passengers, half of them from the United States. Spain has repeated this phenomenon: the number of cruises has grown by 45% since 2008, while other tourist sectors have stagnated.
Europe, although a giant holiday market, doesn’t attract this type of tourism in the same way as in the US. In Spain, France and Italy, end users barely reach 2% of global traffic. That is the challenge of large cruise line operators: to convert Europeans into new customers, since only 30% come currently come from Europe. Royal Caribbean, a major player in the cruise industry has concentrated its activities in Barcelona, from where they plan to expand.
Cruise holidays have a big advantage over conventional holidays given their all-year-round appeal, allowing seasonal adjustments in pricing and marketing. Ships that work the warmer climates in Europe during the summer, such as the Mediterranean, transfer to routes in the southern hemisphere in the winter. However, as this proves costly for operators, they are reverting to the Spanish market for targeting winter cruises from bases such as Malaga and the Canary Islands, attracting the British and German public. According to Jorge Vilches, executive of Pullmantur, all year round operations in the Mediterranean would cut the costs for everybody, companies and customers alike.
Jorge Vilches goes on to say that “the arrival of travelers in Spain is highly concentrated in Barcelona, but there’s great potential for developing other ports further south, such as Valencia and Malaga”. Pullmantur has concentrated its activities in Barcelona, not least because in recent years, the airport has opened up more transatlantic flights to or from the United States. The future of ports like Valencia and Palma de Mallorca are linked directly to the improvement in air links, primarily to and from the US.
- Málaga port opens up to the city.
- Motril Port joins Málaga as a top cruise destination.
- New Ferry Service from Motril to Alhucemas in Morocco.