Before it was only a ship. A simple and fairly affordable method of transportation from one place to another. Nowadays, it is viewed as the ‘floating hotel.’ Modern day cruise ships offer more than mere transportation. Passengers get to enjoy state of the art lodging facilities, exotic pools, exquisite bars and high-class restaurants on board. In addition, they have a unique opportunity to travel the world and revel in its rich cultures and landscapes.
“The world cruise industry is a niche type of tourism, but cruise vacations have reached a level of popularity few industry observers believed was possible 30 years ago. Indeed it is one of the star growth industries of the early 21st century and experts expect this growth to continue,” state researchers A. A Najafipour, V. Marzi, M. H Foroozanfar * (2014). According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), between 2011-2016 the cruise industry recorded an increase of 20.5%. Current data shows in 2018 cruise travel estimated a steady rise to about 27.2 million passengers as opposed to an estimated 25.8 million passengers in 2017.
Although cruise ships are often considered destinations in themselves, as the industry becomes more globalized, cruise lines are open to many more destinations around the world. Besides the beautiful north American Islands, Africa has a lot to offer in terms of its diverse culture and unique landscape. The sensational Islands in the Indian ocean off East Africa, the tropical Cape Verde Islands, the coastal cities and ports in Egypt, Ghana, Senegal, Namibia, Kenya, South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar just to name a few, provide a great opportunity for passengers to experience Africa’s cultural resources first hand.
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In South Africa for example, the coastal cities of Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth welcome quite a number of multicontinental cruise ships yearly. Speaking to Cruise and Ferry Magazine, David Green, CEO of V&A Waterfront disclosed, cruise tourism brings in around R100-million (slightly over $7 Mio.) for the local tourism industry in Cape Town alone, while 50 cruise ships, carrying more than 67,000 passengers. More than 14,000 crews arrived in Cape Town via the V&A Waterfront’s E-Berth Cruise Terminal during the 2016/2017 South African cruise season. “The cruise ship industry is an important part of Cape Town’s economy and of our city’s proud maritime heritage […] we are determined to extend the world-class experience the V&A Waterfront is known for to the terminal,” he says.
In 2016 over 200,000 tourists travelled through Durban’s port. Despite the small number of tourists compared to the 10 million international tourists who visited South Africa that same year, South Africa’s tourism board remains hopeful and speculates an increase in the future. “[…] We have seen tremendous growth since we started. For example, last year (2017) there has been 22% growth in that business. [The new terminal] will be a ground-breaking business that will connect the cruise industry with local businesses […] now local businesses that supply milk, eggs, butter, fruit and everything are also beneficiaries of this,” states Moshe Motlohi, manager at Transnet Durban Port
However, despite South Africa’s attractions in terms of beautiful beaches, exciting safari parks and growing cruising craze, the country’s share of the cruise tourism market, is estimated globally to be at over 21 million tourists, which is less than 1% as revealed by Andrew Robinson, a transport expert and director at Norton Rose Fulbright attorneys. “One of the most critical aspects of creating a vibrant cruise industry is investment in world-class infrastructure,” states Gaurav Sinha, a Dubai-based tourism expert and the chief executive of branding agency Insignia.
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In an interview with Marketplace Africa, the CEO of South Africa Tourism, Sisa Ntshona, disclosed the country is aiming for a mix of 10-15% from cruise line space translating to about 1 million to 1.5 million international tourists. Strategies to incentivise and promote visits to South Africa will no longer be limited to airlines, but also extended to cruise liner space to have them dock through the South African ports. The city Durban that lies along the Indian Ocean, intends to receive around 700,000 passengers annually within the next few decades. In a bid to realize these vision, a joint venture of 25 years between MSC Cruises SA and Africa Armada Consortium launched last year, intents to build and manage a R200 million ($14.6 Mio.) modern cruise terminal in South Africa. Inbound tour operators or Destination Management Companies (DMCs) specialised in arrangements for excursions or activities at the ports of call is a key segment of cruise tourism that requires proper attention as they are significant links between destinations and cruise lines.
“Ships move from one port to another and there’s great potential to build the cruise industry in sub-Saharan Africa as people want to discover the abundance of nature, culture and heritage across the continent,” says Mr. Sinha. As the popularity of cruise tourism increases, the chances of economy expansion are very high. The floating hotels come bearing gifts of luxury, pleasure and development.