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Cruise industry execs report Spanish market has stabilised

Cruise industry execs report Spanish market has stabilised
Senior cruise executives believe Spain’s sluggish results of the past two years appear to be giving way to a better outlook for 2015.

Alfredo Serrano, CLIA's director general for Spain, among cruise industry leaders speaking at the 2014 International Cruise Summit in Madrid described a ‘good pace’ in 2015 bookings. He noted that Spain retains its second rank as a European cruise destination, and as the fifth largest source market, despite the country's ongoing economic difficulties.

Belén Wangüemert, general manager - Spain and France for Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, said that supply and demand in this market appears to have stabilised.

On the sidelines of the conference, her colleague Adam Sharp, RCCL's Port Services and Guest Port Services for the UK, Northern Europe and Middle East, told Seatrade Insider that publicity surrounding September's short cruise season in Spain by Oasis of the Seas had produced an unprecedented spike in enquiries and bookings for the Allure of the Seas’ 2015 Mediterranean program.

MSC Cruises ceo Gianni Onorato pointed out in a separate press briefing that his company is increasing its offer in the Spanish market by 66% for 2015, to 6,115 cabins per week aboard four vessels, clearly reflecting confidence in this market. Two ships will sail from Barcelona and one each from Valencia and Palma. He cautioned, however, that Spain still lags behind Italy and France as source markets for fall and winter cruising. 

Maria Cano, cruise manager for the regional Ports de la Generalitat of Catalonia, said that proximity to Barcelona, far from being a competitive drawback, has actually benefited from a halo effect for the ports of Palamós and Roses on the Costa Brava and Sant Carles de la Ràpita, southward near the Ebro Delta.

Smaller vessels carrying higher net worth passengers, most of who already know -- and like -- Barcelona, are bringing travellers who look for less-crowded attractions and high-end gastronomy, she noted.

In the first nine months of 2014, cruise traffic at Spanish ports has effectively remained stagnant compared with 2013. A 2.4% decrease to 2,539 calls produced 5,392,204 passengers.

As might be expected, there are variations within the overall data.

Las Palmas, Spain's third ranking cruise port, had a thumping 49% gain to 633,000 passengers, aided by a 19% increase to 299 port calls. First place Barcelona, by contrast, dipped 9.2% to 1.82m passengers on a 10% drop to 554 calls.

The Balearics, however, saw near-level results, with 1.19m passengers, up by just 0.9% on a 2.7% growth to 532 port calls. Málaga, which had previously suffered sharp declines, held nearly level at 256,300 passengers, fractionally down by 0.3%, despite a further 12% slide to 142 port calls.