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Italy forecasts all-time high cruise count in 2019

PHOTO: Luca Peruzzi
Italian Cruise Day discussions focused on the need to improve infrastructure to support cruise growth, not just at the port level but also within destinations and between ports and airports
Italy's cruise traffic is projected to reach a historic high in 2019 with 11.85m passengers, according to the Italian Cruise Watch 2018 report by tourism research and consulting company Risposte Turismo.

Up from 2011's record 11.51m

'The Italian ports’ historical 11.51 million passengers traffic figure registered in 2011 is expected to be surpassed in 2019 with an 11.85 million estimate,' Riposte Turismo president Francesco di Cesare said Friday during the 8th edition of Italian Cruise Day, held at Trieste's Stazione Marittima.

'Italy remains the most important destination in the Mediterranean basin, and all the sector players and institutions will have to look to these new traffic figures to make programs, strategies and investments as cruise traffic is expected to grow further, according to operators and companies,' di Cesare said. He cautioned, however, that prospects for Northern Africa and Eastern Mediterranean destinations are uncertain.

Italian Cruise Day round-table discussions—involving cruise lines, ports and other stakeholders—focused on the need to improve infrastructure to support cruise growth, not just at the port level but also within destinations and between ports and airports. This will be key to attract new cruise business.

Venice stalemate

The Venice stalemate over cruise operations also came up, with the head of the Italian Port Association (Assoporti) and president of the Western Adriatic Sea system port authority urging institutions to reach a resolution. MedCruise president Airam Diaz Pastor contributed to the discussion, highlighting the challenges along with the support provided by his ports organization.

'The cruise industry is still young, in full expansion and offers Italy very interesting growth prospects,' said Pierfrancesco Vago, participating in the event as a member of the CLIA Europe executive board and as executive chairman of MSC Cruises. 'Italy continues to attract international cruise tourism thanks to its artistic, cultural and natural heritage, and 8,000 kilometers of coastline, which makes our country one of the most desired destinations. It's vitally important,' he added, 'to maintain continuous attention on the value of cruising to the national economy.'

The projected 11.85m passengers represents a 6.8% increase compared to 2018, whose cruise count is expected to tally 11.1m, while ship calls will remain stable with a 0.3% increase (4,750 calls versus 4,736). The trend of larger cruise ships fuels the passenger growth even though the number of calls is flat.

Rome continues to lead, Genoa moves up

The Rome and Lazio region port of Civitavecchia will continue as Italy's No. 1 cruise destination, with 2.56m passengers, up 4.5% from the 2.45m in 2018, and 827 calls, a 7.4% increase. 'One in five passengers to Italian ports in 2019 will pass through Civitavecchia, affirming its status of [leading] home- and turn-around port,' di Cesare said.

Venice will maintain its second place with 1.49m passengers, a 1.4% increase, and 530 calls, but passenger count could slightly differ due to the application of a new Italian Coast Guard algorithm pertaining to cruise ship traffic.

Genoa port will rise to No. 3, with 1.35m passengers (+32.1 %) and 257 calls. If these projections bear out, the Ligurian port will chalk up a record, thanks to substantial growth from MSC Cruises with the arrival of MSC Bellissima and MSC Grandiosa, in addition to the return of Costa Cruises with Costa Fortuna.

Naples will follow with 1.23m passengers (+12.6%) and 445 calls (+14.7%) and increased homeport figures. Due to important infrastructure and dredging activities to accommodate the LNG-fueled Costa Smeralda, Savona will settle at fifth position with 885,000 passengers (-1.3%) and 175 calls.

Livorno's traffic will slighly increase to 820,000 passengers (+3.1%) and 396 calls while work continues to improve cruise infrastructure. La Spezia will register a 48.9% increase to 700,000 passengers and 160 calls (+23.1%). Bari will reach 610,000 passengers and 239 calls, while Palermo will hold stable with 580,000 cruisers and 172 calls, with a renovated cruise and ferry area and new terminals on the horizon.

Sicily’s other cruise ports, Messina and Catania, are expected to post respective increases of 452,873 passengers (+24%) and 217,950 (+82%) passengers, and 170 and 111 calls. Sardinia's Cagliari will see slight losses but be in position to regain ground from the 316,415 passengers and 108 calls estimated in 2019 with the doubling in size of the cruise terminal and dedicated area, while Porto Torres will jump to 50,000 passengers. Brindisi will reach 115,000 passengers and 47 calls, while Salerno will increase by 27% to 95,000 passengers on 70 calls.

German cruisers buoy Trieste

Host of the 8th edition of Italian Cruise Day, Trieste will register 25% growth to 100,000 passengers and 63 calls (including Sistiana destination), thanks to more German passengers. Trieste Terminal Passeggeri will be the starting point for the vernissage cruises of Costa Venezia and Sky Princess, while TUI Cruises will continue to call with the introduction of Mein Schiff 6. Phoenix Reisen will return with Artania and Amadea.

Ancona and Trapani figures will remain stable with a respective 65,000 and 51,000 passengers, and 38 and 52 calls, while among smaller destinations, Portofino will grow 21% to 40,000 passengers on 90 calls. Thirteen other ports also charted by the Italian Cruise Watch 2018 report will handle a total 161,893 passengers and 324 calls.

The Risposte Turismo analysis is based on estimates provided by 34 cruise ports, representing 98% of Italy's passenger traffic and 87% of calls.