CLIA Cruise Week Europe 2024: optimism and frustration as cruise leaders look ahead to the future

This year’s event in Genoa saw cruise stakeholders share a positive outlook following the resurgence of passenger numbers in 2023, but also express dissatisfaction with international sustainability cooperatio

CLIA Cruise Week Europe 2024: optimism and frustration as cruise leaders look ahead to the future
The European Summit conference programme featured a range of cruise leaders and government ministers

By Alex Smith |

“We are in a new era of cruising,” said Jason Liberty, CEO of Royal Caribbean Group and the newly elected global chairman of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), as he joined other industry leaders to discuss the latest industry developments at CLIA Cruise Week Europe in Genoa, Italy.

Liberty’s positive outlook reflected the optimism among attendees at this year’s conference, as they celebrated the resurgence of passenger numbers to 31.5 million in 2023, the industry’s best year since the pandemic. However, leading executives also aired significant frustrations at the event, most notably on the topic of sustainability.

During the keynote panel discussion, titled ‘‘From Aspiration to Reality – for a Successful Decarbonisation of the Cruise Industry’, MSC Group’s Pierfrancesco Vago, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ Harry Sommer and Carnival Corporation’s Josh Weinstein all expressed their frustration with a perceived lack of cooperation from national governments and international bodies in achieving sustainability goals.

“We haven’t seen great support from some countries around Europe, and we call on them not to look at us as the enemy, but as partners,” said Sommer. “We are willing to do our fair share, by investing tens of millions of dollars in innovation, but we need that same commitment from countries, the International Maritime Organization and the EU Commission. I call on them to engage with us constructively; we want to work with them hand in hand to achieve a decarbonised future.”

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From left: Pierfrancesco Vago, Harry Sommer and Josh Weinstein at CLIA Cruise Week Europe in Genoa, Italy

Another of the keynote discussions, ‘Structuring Tourism Development in Destinations,’ focused on how destinations and cruise lines can sustainably manage the rapid resurgence of cruise tourism following the pandemic.

“We in Spain are trying to manage our new sustainability goals, and we are trying to do it in an optimistic and flexible way,” said Felix De Paz Garcia, deputy director general at the State Secretariat of Tourism of Spain. “Success is based on proper management of the flow of tourists and the load capacity of destinations. We have a great success story in the Port of Barcelona, but providing the cruise industry with other good opportunities in medium to low-capacity ports with good infrastructure is the best way that we think we can manage this situation.”

For the first time, CLIA Cruise Week Europe featured an exhibition of solutions and products from companies involved in the cruise industry, the Innovation Expo. The exhibition featured a wide range of organisations, from shipbuilder Fincantieri and interior design firm De Jorio Design to the Port of Barcelona and food and beverage solution provider Welbilt.

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De Jorio Design was among the exhibitors at the new Innovation Expo

FarSounder, a manufacturer of forward-facing sonar technologies, was one of the companies visiting CLIA Cruise Week Europe for the first time. The company showcased how its work in compiling data will enable crise lines to improve navigation.

“Charting is very poor in general,” said Cassie Stetkiewicz, director of operations at FarSounder. “We’re looking to change that by enabling our customers to download the historical data that our other clients have collected from the cloud, giving them information even if they’ve never sailed in an area before. They in turn can upload the data they collect, helping improve the standard of charting in remote regions.”

Also exhibiting at the Innovation Expo was the Women's International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA), a global organisation connecting female executives from all sectors of the maritime industry. WISTA was attending the event as part of its efforts to expand its engagement with the cruise sector and discuss its latest initiatives. Elpi Petraki, international president of WISTA and a speaker at the European Summit, spoke with CFR at the event.

“WISTA is celebrating its 50th year, and the maritime industry has changed a lot in those years,” she said. “The cruise sector is ahead of the curve in putting more women in leadership positions in recent years, but a lot more work still needs to be done.  We support education programmes that help train women to take up those positions, but it’s also a case of changing the culture to allow women and other underrepresented groups to allow women the same chances. We don’t see that as a battle, we see it as creating a balanced environment that better for everyone to work together in and produce better results.”

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