Antwerp workshop focuses on innovative cruise strategies

The potential for significant growth in the number of people taking cruises – and innovative ways in which ports and cities can attract more cruise vessel calls – were the themes of a workshop organised as part of the EU Cruise Gateway project.

The workshop, entitled ‘Cruise and Political Perspectives’, was hosted by the City of Antwerp/Tourism, a partner in Cruise Gateway.

A particular focus was on the successful strategy and policies adopted by Antwerp, which has delivered successful growth in cruise business for the city.

In the 1980s, Antwerp had no policy at all – cruise was a matter of individual approach by city, port authority and partners, each emphasising their own USPs and with no coherent or consistent message, and no collective marketing.

A Cruise Policy established in 1990 brought together city and port with the ambition to develop Antwerp as a cruise destination, define a marketing vision, establish clear procedures regarding the marine approach, create a ‘task force’ for recommendations and consider possible investments.

However, the creation in 2008 of Antwerp Cruise Port was the real turning point. This formal cooperation between the city and the port authority has benefited from joint efforts to strengthen cruise tourism, providing a one-stop-shop for all cruise-related matters.

“This is a combination of marketing and marine expertise,” said Kattina Glasinovich, cruise manager of Antwerp Cruise Port. “Antwerp Cruise Port is a partner for all cruise-related matters, sending out one message to the industry and partners, paying full attention to safety and security, and working as one on the needs of passengers, cruise line and ship’s staff and crew. As a result, Antwerp has developed as a cruise destination and seen a strong increase in the number of cruise calls and passengers.”

During the workshop, Peter Mathieu, CEO of Cruise Connection and chairman of Cruise & Ferry World, gave an outline of the Belgian and world cruise market.

There were than 6 million Europeans cruisers in 2011, and the continent has seen a steady growth of 9% per annum, he said. The UK (28%), Germany (23%) and Italy (15%) remain the European market share leaders. However, in terms of fastest growing destinations, Benelux (26% growth 2010-11) was Europe’s second only to Switzerland (33%). In 2012, 66,000 Belgians took a cruise.

“As projected, Europe has now surpassed the 6 million mark. With a steady growth of 9%, cruise vacations are continuing to race ahead in popularity in Europe,” said Peter Mathieu.

However, he added, the aftermath of the Costa Concordia tragedy, combined with the economic downturn, has seen a drop in cruise passengers from some countries.

“After years of continuous growth, 2012 has not been the brightest year in our history. Nevertheless, the potential is here and we’re more than ever motivated to focus on gaining our rightful part of the market.”

Antwerp is successful not only in attracting sea cruises but also as a river cruise option. In 2012, there were 615 river cruises from Antwerp, carrying almost 85,000 passengers.

“Antwerp started out in the 1980s without a policy and it has evolved to a successful cooperation between the city’s tourism department and the Port of Antwerp,” said Kattina Glasinovich. “Since Antwerp Cruise Port was created, there have been consecutive successes. This can be seen as a best practice for other cruise destinations.”