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Cruise centre stage at EU Pan-European Dialogue conference

Cruise centre stage at EU Pan-European Dialogue conference
Representatives from CLIA Europe, ESPO, HELCOM and MedCruise are among speakers at a two day inaugural conference of the EU’s Pan-European Dialogue between cruise operators, ports, and coastal tourism stakeholders, starting today in Brussels.

Pierfrancesco Vago, CLIA Europe chairman and executive chairman of MSC Cruises, outlined how the cruise industry has for some time pressed the case for a permanent, structured forum of discussion bringing together the cruise industry, ports, and regional/local tourism actors.

He said: ‘Today, I would like to congratulate the European Commission for making the pan-European Dialogue a reality. This important milestone will help foster contact and cooperation between stakeholders and show how we can work together on challenges and opportunities.’

Vago made the case for further changes at the EU level in order for cruise tourism to continue to increase its contribution to Europe’s economic recovery, particularly in coastal areas that have been hit disproportionately hard by the economic downturn.

‘The cruise industry is already an essential part of Europe’s economic recovery and, with more support from national and European regulators we could do much better. The launch of the Pan-European Dialogue is welcome evidence of change. But change must continue if Europe is to remain the world’s “number one” tourism destination.’

Vago also set out the priority challenges this platform should address, including the need to implement current environmental legislation in a harmonised way, streamline visa procedures, invest in coastal infrastructure, and improve port facilities.

Carla Salvado, president of MedCruise, stressed at the opening session of the conference, the 'need for all stakeholders to set up a value chain and work together.' When ports need to provide functional investment, cruise lines need to work on ensuring commitment with ports and destinations, whereas city managers have to understand the cruise idiosyncrasy, she commented.

The MedCruise president recommended that a European agenda should focus on ways to facilitate the sustainable growth taking into account that many ports must comply with the same legislation. For this reason, she stated 'create synergies and avoid duplicities is too important'. She also concluded with Vago that the industry needed clear guidelines for environmental issues and facilitation of visa procedures for crew and passengers.
Since October 2013, MedCruise together with CLIA Europe, have detailed very specific proposals that would benefit cruising throughout Europe,  'proposals that we would like to believe produced the seeds for today’s initiative,' concluded Salvado.
Stavros Hatzakos, MedCruise honorary president and chairman of the European Network for Cruise and Ferry Ports (NCFP), set within the European Seaport Organisation (ESPO), urged, 'the need for constructive debate with the associations representing cruise lines and other stakeholders involved in the cruise or ferry sector and investigate potential collaborative synergies' and underlined that 'the industry has taken initiatives; formal and informal networking is advancing.'
Earlier, ESPO chairman, Santiago Garcia-Milà outlined a set of key challenges for European cruise ports that port authorities will seek to develop into a set of good practices for the sector.
The six key challenges identified by the cruise port authorities working within the NCFP are: competition and cooperation between cruise ports, relations with the city of arrival and the local authorities, infrastructure in and around the port, relations with the cruise lines, freight versus cruise relationship within the port and finally security, customs and border control issues. 'Port authorities in EU will sit together in working groups. But we will also open the dialogue with all other stakeholders. We will need the support and input of everyone active in the sector' was his concluding remark.
Τhe event was opened by DG MARE Commissioner Karmenu Vella who highlighted the importance of sustainable cruise tourism for Europe and that, 'The time has come to go the extra mile, to make a collective effort. We all have a vested interest in working towards a bigger, a more sustainable, a more competitive and a more inclusive cruise tourism for Europe.'

Vago concluded: ‘The European Commission has provided us with a framework within which we can now all work together to address these and other challenges as well as to maximise opportunities. However, the success of this Platform will ultimately be judged by the outcomes that it produces, in terms of concrete steps to overcome these hurdles to growth.’