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Europe's dynamism continues, German cruise market heads toward 3m

(Photo: Frederik Erdmann)
Europe’s cruise industry leaders gathered at Hamburg for the Seatrade Europe’s opening panel with Seatrade's Andrew Williams, the moderator
The Seatrade Europe Cruise & River Cruise Convention in Hamburg opened with an air of great optimism on Wednesday. Although China surpassed Germany as the world's second largest cruise passenger source market last year, the market of Seatrade Europe's host country continues dynamically developing.

Karl J. Pojer, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and chairman of CLIA Germany, expects further growth. 'I do not see why the positive development should not continue,' Pojer said, predicting the 3m benchmark could be reached already by 2020. Last year, 2.02m ocean cruises were sold in Germany.

Addressing Seatrade Europe's opening panel discussion on the industry's future in Europe, Pojer called Germany a success story driven by innovation, speed and creativity. He described the current market development as healthy, stressing it was not built on price-cutting or a focus soley on volume.

Felix Eichhorn, president of AIDA Cruises, supported this view and said the German market needs more capacity. 'More ships will drive the market,' Wybcke Meier, CEO of TUI Cruises, confirmed. Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, expects the German source market to develop with an average growth rate at least between 5% and 6% in the years to come.

Apart from the thriving German market, Europe's cruise industry leaders identified the western Mediterranean source markets (Italy, France and Spain) as another growth opportunity. Onorato said a higher market penetration is needed in those countries, a view supported by Neil Palomba, president of Costa Crociere.

Palomba said Italy, France and Spain were picking up after some relatively difficult years owing to the economic crisis that hit southern Europe in the early 2010s. However, the market penetration is still very low, about 1% or lower. 'Cruise lines should not compete against each other, but rather against the land-based tourism,' Palomba said.

Luxury and expedition cruising are a prospering segment throughout Europe. Roberto Martinoli, CEO of Silversea Cruises, said the demand for this type of product continues to increase, fueled by demographics.

Pojer concurred. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is currently operating two ships, Hanseatic and Bremen, in the expedition segment. Expedition newbuilds Hanseatic nature and Hanseatic inspiration arrive by 2019. The current Hanseatic will be returned to its owners while Bremen will remain in the fleet with a focus on active cruises.

Booking patterns across Europe remain highly diversified, the cruise industry leaders said.

While AIDA's Eichhorn, TUI's Meier and Hapag-Lloyd's Pojer said Germans tend to book far in advance, Richard J. Vogel, president & CEO of Grupo Pullmantur, described the Spanish source market as having a short booking window.