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The cruise liner industry is the fastest growing global tourism sector. The average growth rate of the sector has been 8% per annum since 1980. Some 12 million people went cruising in 2006 and the number is expected to grow to 16 million by 2009. The industry is estimated to be worth some $29 billion and it sustains approximately 559 000 jobs.


Councillor Simon Grindrod, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Social Development and Tourism says: “Given the importance of the industry it is disappointing that Cape Town and Southern Africa have largely failed to benefit from this growth. Cape Town has a long history of welcoming and saying farewell to passenger liners. Many Capetonians remember the era of the Union Castle mailships and the “City” Line passenger vessels making regular calls in Table Bay Harbour. The time could be ripe to re-establish Cape Town as one of the great passenger liner destinations of the world by promoting itself and the Southern African region as a base for destination cruises.”


During the dramatic increase in the industry worldwide, the current level of cruising in South and East African waters has remained fairly static. Tourism KwaZulu-Natal has made efforts to develop the market and has achieved some success with Starlight Cruises offering cruises from Durban and Cape Town.


This lack of growth in the Southern African market is all the more surprising given the fact that cruise liner operators are seeking new destinations. It is interesting to note that cities against which Cape Town benchmarks itself such as Miami, Vancouver, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore and even Auckland have all been developed as cruise liner destinations. In fact the East Coast of Australia and New Zealand have become popular cruise liner destination bases experiencing 28% per annum growth during 2000-2003.


Southern Africa has a wide range of attractions for cruise liners. Cape Town and its surrounds, the Winelands, Addo Elephant Park and the growing number of private game reserves close to Port Elizabeth/Coega, the Wild Coast, Durban from which trips to the Ukhlahamba Drakensberg range is achievable, Hluhluwe-Imfilosi, Isimangiliso/Greater St Lucia Park are close to Richards Bay, the Mozambique coast and islands, Zanzibar, Mombasa not forgetting the stark attractions of the Namibian coast are just some of the attractions on offer. There is so much potential and so much that we could show visitors.


An advantage of cruise liners is that they can berth at ports with limited landside facilities. Modern cruise liners are after all floating resorts. Given this position, areas which have previously been fairly inaccessible to this type of tourist, as well as the traditional tourism nodes, could benefit.


There are three basic segments of the cruise liner industry namely:

*  Round-the-World or classic cruises;

*  Repositioning cruises, where a cruise vessel is relocating from one home port of a destination and offers a cruise to another destination;

*  Destination or area based cruises, where a cruise ship is located within a specific area and is based at a “home-port” in close proximity to the area of its cruise itinerary and returns to the home-port at the end of the voyage.


Fly/cruise tourism is usually available for each of the above categories. This situation limits home-ports to those that have international flight connections. So in the case of South Africa only Cape Town or Durban would qualify as potential home-ports.


At present Cape Town and Durban feature on the schedule of round-the-world cruises and vessels on appropriate repositioning cruises but this is a limited market. Destination based cruises are by far the largest component of the market and it is this sector that Cape Town should seek to develop. As stated earlier only Starlight Cruises offer destination-based cruises from Durban and Cape Town.


What needs to happen to develop our region for destination-based cruises? Cruise liner passengers are high spending, generally mature in age and importantly often influential in their community. It is therefore unrealistic to expect these visitors to be accommodated in an antiquated cargo shed converted for use as a cruise liner terminal. All of the destination-based cruise liner harbours have state-of-the-art multi-use cruise liner terminals. At present small vessels can be berthed in the V & A Waterfront but if we are serious about developing the market then a custom designed facility needs to be built in Duncan Dock. This is particularly important given that the trend is for cruise ships to be getting longer, wider and taller in order to accommodate more people and generate more revenue for the cruise lines.


Cruise liner terminals are not profitable investments on their own. Given this position the trend worldwide is to construct a multi-use facility that can be used as a cruise liner terminal as well as for other uses. Cape Town has the perfect opportunity at present to develop a stunning multi-use cruise liner terminal by linking this project to the proposed expansion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The design of the expansion of the Convention Centre needs to include provision for a multi-purpose cruise liner terminal to be added at a later date. It is quite possible to construct the terminal so that it does not unduly affect cargo operations in the harbour by straddling the gangway across the wharf to meet the point where the passengers disembark. Just imagine how spectacular and convenient for all concerned it will be having these beautiful vessels berthed adjacent to the Convention Centre.


Durban is planning to build a cruise liner terminal as part of the re-development of the Point. If destination-based cruise liner business is to expand in this region then terminals at the potential home-ports of Cape Town and Durban is probably essential. As happened with the construction of the Cape Town International Convention Centre some form of special purpose organization may be required to access finance for the venture. This is an issue which needs greater research.


In addition, in investigating the provision of better facilities the Southern African region needs to combine its marketing efforts to attract the major cruise liner operators to our shores. We need to find out how the areas such as Australia and New Zealand managed to establish themselves in the industry.


According to research commissioned by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, North America provides the largest number of cruisers followed by the United Kingdom. Germany is third and is one of the fastest growing markets, so links with Namibia could provide a competitive advantage for the region.


It is also stated in the KwaZulu-Natal commissioned work, that more than 85% of cruise passengers believe that cruising is an important vehicle for sampling destinations to which they may return. Approximately 50% of passengers expect to return to the places that they visited while on a cruise.


It is important to realise that cruise tourists wish to see the same attractions as every other visitor to the region. Cruising would therefore need to become integrated within other packages offered by the region and marketed accordingly. For example, a popular package offered in Canada is to fly to Calgary to join the Rocky Mountaineer train over the Canadian Rockies. The train journey ends in Vancouver where the tour continues by joining a cruise to Alaska. The cruise returns to Vancouver where the cruiser disembarks and flies back home. As this example shows, with a bit of ingenuity the development of the cruise liner industry can benefit more than just the coastal ports.


Mansoor Mohamed, the City’s Executive Director for Economic, Social Development and Tourism says: “The industry is dominated by a few major operators. If we can attract one of these major players then perhaps market forces may result in the others needing to follow suit. We need to contact the cruise liner operators to market the region to them and to assess what is required to induce them to include Southern Africa on their list of cruise destinations. Our marketing bodies also need to be prominent at the relevant trade shows around the world to promote the region as a cruise liner destination. Developing Cape Town as a home-port for destination-based cruises will have a major positive impact on the growth of the tourism industry and therefore jobs in the city. However, although Cape Town can play a key role, it is unlikely that one city or region can develop the market alone. It is therefore essential that all appropriate organisations in the region work together to help devise a strategy that will ensure the success of this venture.”





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Date Posted: 2007-10-18
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