Alan Lam reporting from Madrid
On the occasion of the International Cruise Summit 2017 (ICS 2017), currently underway in the Spanish capital city of Madrid, industry executives, travel agents, and other stakeholders have once again gathered to discuss issues relating to the latest development in global cruise business in general and European cruise market in particular.
In the light of the controversial and much discussed over-tourism problem experienced in Europe recently, the question is now asked as to whether or not the pendulum has swung in favour of smaller size ports and less known destinations, after years of begging cruise lines to call. In fact, some have been so bold as to ask whether or not cruise lines should begin marketing themselves to these ports and destinations.
As the cruise geography shrinks in the Mediterranean and elsewhere owing to geopolitical and climate-related issues, major ports, mainly in Europe, are experiencing congestions and their hinterland destinations suffer over-tourism. Has time now finally come for smaller ports?
In the quest for more destinations, megaships may not be the way forward, as cruise port facility development struggles to keep up with the swelling ship size. A few cruise lines have opted to build smaller ships in order to be able go to more places. Is port development now in some way dictating the sizes of future ships rather than the other way round?
It is an arguable fact that the success in recent years of expedition and upscale cruise business has been at least in part due to the ability of the ships to go to more destinations and offer wider range of guest experiences.
New brands like Virgin Voyages, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and Viking Ocean are not mega ship operators. Celebrity and TUI are among the major cruise brands building smaller ships. Does the future of ocean cruise now belong to smaller ship operators?
As in all previous years, Cruise Business Review is a media partner of ICS 2017. Our correspondent is attending the conference. An in-depth report on the issue raised will be published in the spring issue.