The Mediterranean cruise industry underwent a strong resurgence in 2022, pushing it back towards the records set before the pandemic. According to data collected by MedCruise, the association of Mediterranean cruise ports, there were 24.13 million cruise passenger movements in its member ports in 2022, a jump of over 18 million from 2021.
The Western Mediterranean accounted for 75 per cent of those movements, with 9,650 calls bringing over 18 million passengers to ports in the region. A further 12.5 per cent of movements were recorded in the Adriatic, while 11.95 per cent occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean. Though short of the 31.5 million movements in 2019, the bounce back in numbers in 2022 demonstrated a clear upwards trend in the regional cruise industry since the global cruise hiatus during the pandemic.
The promising outlook for the region has further improved in the first half of 2023. Member ports in the Western Mediterranean saw dramatic growth in both calls and passenger numbers compared to the same period in 2022. The French port of Marseille, for example, has seen calls rise by 14 per cent and passenger numbers grow by 143 per cent, while Motril in southern Spain has noted a 683 per cent boom in passenger numbers. The number of calls and passengers at Spanish port Valenica has exceeded pre-pandemic records, indicating that the regional cruise industry may be close to returning to the strong position it held in 2019.
MedCruise ports in the Eastern Mediterranean achieved a similar level of success in the same period. Galataport Istanbul in Turkey received 41 per cent more calls and 103 per cent more passengers than in 2022, while Sibenik, Croatia, grew its calls by 68 per cent and its passenger numbers by 115 per cent. The Greek port of Thessaloniki also reached triple-digit growth during the same period, while Egyptian ports received 82.5 per cent more calls.
“Witnessing the remarkable growth of MedCruise ports in 2022 and the first half of 2023 is truly heartening,” says Figen Ayan, president of MedCruise. “The resurgence of the Mediterranean cruise industry, with a return to pre-pandemic records, stands as a testament to our collective efforts and determination.”
To continue driving this growth, MedCruise has identified some key challenges that its member ports will need to overcome. The first of these is to find ways to connect the cruise sector and local communities to ensure cruise port activity has a positive impact on cities and metropolitan areas. The association believes it is crucial for ports to maintain a positive experience for both cruise visitors and local community and suggests they take measures to manage passenger flow and to protect cultural, artistic and natural attractions.
MedCruise also highlights the environmental challenge of fulfilling net zero targets set by the European Union (EU) by 2050, suggesting that its non-EU member ports would be best served by working to the same targets while all ports strive to find a balance between cost and environmental requirements. Technology investments will also be a crucial challenge, the association suggests, as ports look for digital solutions that improve efficiency. Finally, effective destination marketing will remain an important task for Mediterranean ports, as will cooperating with government authorities and regulatory bodies to ensure compliance with their requirements.
“We are well-aware of the new challenges that we are facing,” says Ayan. “These growths are also shaping our port investments, which can be regrouped in digitalisation, sustainability (onshore power systems, LNG etc), terminal or wide waterfront complexes investments, in the model of Galataport Istanbul. It is evident that the cruise industry in the Mediterranean is once again charting a course for success. We are committed to continuing this journey, fostering collaboration, and ensuring that our beautiful region flourishes while embracing the challenges ahead.”
This article was first published in the 2024 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.