Cruise Gateway closing conference: Sustainability focus for North Sea cruise

Cruise ports and destinations in the North Sea Region stand to benefit from the increasing interest in sustainability – and they should make sure their ‘green’ efforts are highly visible, delegates were told at a major cruise conference in Rotterdam.

“Sustainability isn’t the main determinant in cruise tourism but it is increasingly important,” said Frank Hendrickx, managing partner of the Rotterdam office of Policy Research Corporation. “Sustainability can create a positive experience for tourists and improve their experience. You have to look at visible ways of demonstrating that you are committed to sustainability, and that will have a positive effect on cruise tourists.”

Mr Hendrickx was speaking at the closing conference of Cruise Gateway North Sea, a three-year European Union project set up to find ways of encouraging more cruise activity in the North Sea Region – while establishing the NSR as a ‘beacon for sustainable cruise’.

Key determinants for cruise lines choosing their turnround and transit ports include attractiveness for tourists; accessibility of destinations; port facilities; and geographical location, including being the right distance from other popular ports; and marketing should primarily focus on these main determinants, said Mr Hendrickx.

However, sustainability is becoming an increasingly important factor, he said, and there are key drivers for the NSR’s sustainability image. Many initiatives are already in place at local, national and regional levels to enhance sustainability and NSR ports are very active in improving their ‘green’ performance. But also, said Mr Hendrickx, cruise destinations in the NSR are not primarily mass tourism destinations.

“I think this is one of the USPs of the North Sea Region compared to very overcrowded destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, for example.”

He recommended that Cruise Gateway partners should jointly draw up a code of conduct on dealing with sustainability in NSR ports, and sign a declaration of intent with certain objectives to be achieved within a specified time period. But most of all, he said, cruise ports should communicate what they are doing and make the most of quick gains with potential high impact in terms of their sustainability image.

Cruise Gateway North Sea brought together 12 partners from seven countries, representing cruise ports, marketing associations, councils and cities. During the three-year term of the project, partners focused on marketing and branding, cruise and accessibility, and cruise and sustainability, with a series of workshops, conferences and best practice tours.

Among the results of the project are some major reports, including:

  • A best practice guide on ‘Sustainable cruise tourism in the North Sea’;
  • An in-depth study into ‘Decision criteria for cruise port selection in the North Sea Region’;
  • A research study into ‘Incorporating sustainability in the branding strategy for cruising in the NSR’.

The emphasis has been on the North Sea Region’s diversity of history, heritage and culture; landscapes, coast and countryside; traditional and modern architecture; vibrant cities and cosy towns and villages. The NSR also offers the advantage of short steaming distances between cruise ports, a major factor for cruise lines looking to save fuel by reducing speed and distance travelled.

Philip Smart, representing project partner Aberdeenshire, said: “We started out three years ago promoting the idea of the North Sea, and we were not sure how this would develop. There are things happening in the North Sea and we can be proud of what we have achieved.”

Mai Elmar, representing Cruise Port Rotterdam, said: “The North Sea Region is innovative and committed. It is now up to us how we work together to bring that message and story forward.”

She urged Cruise Gateway partners to continue to work together and communicate with each other. “The emphasis should be on sustained cooperation.”

Adina Cailliaux, representing Cruise Gateway’s lead partner, Port of Hamburg Marketing, said: “Cruise Gateway North Sea has been all about cooperation. The most important result of the project is the strong partnership we have built up over the past three years. This was the closing conference, but the results of the project will stay much longer.”