The true stoicism of MedCruise and its members was exemplified at the 50th General Assembly. The east Mediterranean and Black Sea will win cruise ships back, just as soon as the tourist trade regains confidence and votes with their feet. Paul Britton, marine operations manager at Disney Cruise Line was sanguine about the subject of itinerary planning in the Mediterranean: “We take our passengers to places they want to go. And to give emerging or challenged destinations further hope, we also take them to places they don’t yet know they want to go to.” The latest wisdom suggests positive signs of recovery may be seen as early as 2018.
The subject of the smaller ports was much discussed in Gibraltar with Claudius Docekal, vice president of deployment at Crystal Cruises, first underlining the obvious hurdle: “We want to go to the small ports, but consumer awareness is a challenge,” he said. “There needs to be a marketing effort to the consumer to grow awareness.”
James Langley, head of marine operations at Saga Cruises, agreed: “I’d love to have just boutique ports on an itinerary but it’s just not going to sell.” So, for now at least, it seems that the lesser known destinations will remain largely sandwiched between marque ports.
All of the delegates praised the availability and exchange of information to support and promote the region’s ports and destinations. “MedCruise does a great job in sharing information,” said Britton.
Marketing momentum is essential in good times and bad – so whether you’re a port in the east or west, you need to be vocal about your appeal. In this regard, the growing trend towards the creation of destination and multi-destination networks was much lauded. In addition to ensuring the whole city gets behind the industry, the combined marketing muscle of a network can help a destination box above its weight and win business that it has no right to win.
But this event isn’t just a back-patting exercise; serious issues dominated formal and social discussions – overcrowding and shorex variety are common recurring topics at this type of event. Berthing policies are too – it’s a subject that Britton has debated a lot. “At CLIA we’ve been talking about clear and transparent berthing policies – we should also add sensible and practical,” he said. “For us that means first come, first served.” The industry has thus far failed to agree and implement a global policy and a solution doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
MedCruise plays a significant role in this business – its tireless work behind the scenes is often forgotten in wake of big industry events. But the association continues to provide a forum for discussion, facilitates solutions to industry challenges, shares information where it is needed and shouts joyfully about the ports and destinations that it represents. The Gibraltar General Assembly was a great success – next stop Toulon in October.