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Tarragona a hive of activity as MedCruise GA kicks off and terminal inaugurated

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Global Ports Holding Chairman Mehmet Kutman (centre) cuts the ribbon at the inauguration of Tarragona Cruise Terminal, alongside the Mayor of Tarragona Rubén Viñuales. Local stakeholders, including port and city representatives, also join the festivities. MedCruise President Figen Ayan stands fourth from right.
The opening of the 64th MedCruise General Assembly took place in Tarragona on Tuesday marking the association’s 28th anniversary, with a double celebration as Tarragona Cruise Terminal was inaugurated.

MedCruise President Figen Ayan, Tarragona Port Authority President Saul Garrets and the Mayor of Tarragona Rubén Viñuales addressed the need for a holistic approach to sustainability, efficient resource management, and cultural heritage preservation at a press conference that marked the start of the MedCruise General Assembly, being hosted at the H10 Imperial Tarraco Hotel from June 11-14.

Ayan declared inclusivity the theme of the GA, stating, ‘We have decided to prepare this whole programme with events and sessions echoing one mainstream philosophy: inclusiveness.’ Like the human tower (castell) that is a symbol of the region, ‘we all carry universal values such as teamwork, solidarity, self improvement, the feeling of belonging and the integration of people of all ages, races and social backgrounds,’ she added. 

Record participation

26 cruise line executives from 23 cruise lines are attending this year’s GA – a record for the association – and 15 national and international media representatives. 

Ayan expressed her excitement about the event, stating, ‘...With such a high participation of cruise lines and media representatives I can only imagine how vibrant our B2B meetings will be! I am a big lover of archaeology and history and Tarragona is simply the best destination to discover antique sites and feel like travelling back in time…I invite you all to enjoy the unique venues, the delicious gastronomy of Tarragona or Costa Daurada, the rich sessions, to benefit from the B2Bs but especially contribute to the debate, and fully join all the networking opportunities, to make strong friendships by the end of the week.’ 

After touching on ‘two deep crises – the war in Ukraine, but also the war in Palestine and Israel,’ Ayan outlined some of the major themes to be discussed during the GA – from female empowerment in the maritime industry to border regulations to expedition cruising in the Mediterranean. ‘We will discover how to create harmonious and holistic services in our ports and destinations with more sustainable shore experiences and…improving cruise passenger mobility and diverting traffic to lesser-known attractions to ease overcrowding at many tourist sites and promote a balanced, sustainable tourism approach.’


MedCruise President Figen Ayan (centre) with Mayor of Tarragona Rubén Viñuales (third from left) and Tarragona Port Authority President Saul Garrett (second from left) with other port and destination representatives

She continued, ‘We will also decode and create strategies to integrate smaller and medium sized ports into the cruise itineraries, and we will also take advantage of the expertise of travel experts, so that we have a new perspective on this dynamic conversation.’ 

Exploring how to make destinations inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community is also on the agenda. 

‘A perfect opportunity’

In less than two years, the association has increased the number of full port members by 10% and the number of associate members by 50%. 

Mayor Viñuales described the GA as ‘a perfect opportunity to show off the rich cultural, gastronomic and historical heritage’ of Tarragona. The new cruise terminal at Balears Wharf, he said, cost €5m with further plans for shore power at the port planned to commence in 2026 at a cost of €16m.

Cruise terminal inauguration

Food, drink and entertainment in the form of a brass band, violinist and giant dancing puppets accompanied the official inauguration of Tarragona Cruise Terminal. 


Towering puppets inside Tarragona Cruise Terminal

Addressing cruise line executives, MedCruise members and media ahead of a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new facility, Mehment Kutman, chairman, Global Ports Holding announced, ‘It's been a process - not a difficult process, but a process.’ Describing the ‘enormous responsibility’ that comes with being the largest port operator in the world, he added, ‘I always say the same thing: we're just the tenants - our landlord is the government, the mayor, the corporate authority, and… the people of Tarragona. They have to be happy with what we do… Another important fact is passenger satisfaction.’ 

The remarks came in between speeches from a number of local stakeholders, including port and destination representatives. 


Tarragona Cruise Port GM Alba Colet, Global Ports Holding Chairman Mehmet Kutman and Medcruise President Figen Ayan at the inauguration of Tarragona’s new cruise terminal at Balears Wharf

Outlook for cruising in Tarragona and beyond

‘As far as Tarragona is concerned, it's super exciting to see this investment here,’ said advisor Andy Stuart, former president/CEO at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. ‘The future is really, really bright, and I would anticipate seeing a lot of capacity coming to this beautiful city in the short term, mid term, and tremendous growth in the long term.'

As for the state of the cruise market generally, 'We're seeing ship orders again, which is great news. Everybody wondered when that was going to start, and we're seeing it with a real vengeance now, which means this industry is really on a roll again.’

He continued, ‘You can see through announcements from public companies that demand is cranking up again... it's really exciting to see what Global Ports Holding are achieving in this industry in investing in port infrastructure, which is critical if this industry is going to grow the way it needs to grow.’ 

People will become more demanding but passengers’ expectations will be realized, he remarked. ‘We need people investing in infrastructure, and it's really exciting to see a company doing it on the scale GPH are doing it.’ 

Tarragona is emerging as a promising cruise destination due to its proximity to an international airport, hotels, and UNESCO World Heritage sites. The port has seen a significant increase in cruise ship visits and passengers in recent years, ‘from just 13 cruises in 2013, the port closed the 2023 season with an impressive 57 calls, and hosted 110,000 cruise passengers,’ Ayan revealed. 

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Tarragona Cruise Terminal