Palermo - Cruise ships will sail again in Italy, and next year Italian ports should see increases in the number of passengers. But not all: numbers at Genoa will stay unchanged, and will be overtaken by Savona in the country’s ranking. Following this decline in 2017, when the country’s ports lost 850 thousand cruisers, 2018 promises to be a bumper year for the industry, bringing total passenger traffic to the 10.8-million mark, or a 6.4% increase. In 2018, the big ports will grow: Civitavecchia will touch the 2.5 million-passenger mark, a 12% increase, Savona will see an even bigger increase than at the Lazio port: 950,000 passengers. Naples takes off: + 15% or one million passengers. Genoa, on the other hand, remains unchanged; it’s a special case.
Along with Venice it’s the only major port not to “bounce-back” after the negative data of 2017, as pointed out by the analysis provided by Risposte Turismo, during the Italian Cruise Day, held yesterday in Palermo. Savona moves ahead of Genoa, but just by a whisker: 30,000 passengers, not a huge number, and simply a function of a slight increase in offering. Basically, Costa Cruises is to increase its presence in the Mediterranean, and just one ship is enough for Savona to get the top spot among Ligurian ports. The fact, however, remains that Genoa will account for less than a million cruisers even in 2018.
AFTER VENICE, GENOA
The quality of infrastructure is also a factor. CLIA, the cruise companies association, has already highlighted Venice’s problem, calling for a quick solution: ships can no longer approach San Marco, but the Vittorio Emanuele Canal represents a good alternative (“I hope everything will be completed in three to four years,” said Galliano Di Marco, managing director of the Venice Passenger Terminal). Genoa, on the other hand, currently has issues with its docks: the collapse and the poor conditions of the cruise quays are worrying operators, and curtail business.
Some ships have already relocated to La Spezia, and unless swift action is taken, others could seek alternative ports in 2018: “We need to solve the problem quickly,” says Giulio Schenone, head of Medov. Quay upgrading work is needed to restore functionality, also increase the professionalism of the Port Authority: there has long been a lack of technical supervisory authority, a gap that must be filled.”
PORTS UNDER SCRUTINY
It’s not just Genoa and Venice that are in the crosshairs of the companies: “The drop experienced in 2017 should be offset by next year’s growth,” explains Francesco Galietti, director of CLIA Italia, “Globally, the cruise industry is growing steadily, the estimated growth in 2018 is linked to the expansion of the offerings, and new ships that are soon to be launched. Italy and the Mediterranean will be directly involved in this expansion phase. Among other things, this year’s decline is partly due to the issues affecting the Mediterranean.” Still, more work is needed to make the upswing more pronounced.
Total investments at Italy’s ports, between now and 2020 will amount to 300 million euro: “Italian ports are currently facing significant challenges,” said Kyriakos Anastassiadis, chairman of CLIA Europe. “It is necessary to provide passengers with adequate levels of comfort, even in the current trend towards colossal ships, where ports are required to handle simultaneously 4-5,000 passengers. But without the necessary infrastructure, chances are the market will bypass you.”
Pasqualino Monti, in his role as chairman of Italy’s Association of Ports, is about to start a vast upgrading effort at the port of Palermo, which has added cruise ships to its already flourishing tourism business.
The cruise companies meanwhile are in buoyant mood: if 2017 meant a contraction in terms of volumes in Italy, for Costa Cruises, MSC and Royal Caribbean it was a positive year, in which business was good and plentiful; it’s the same mantra repeated by Carlo Schiavon (Costa Cruises), Leonardo Massa (MSC) and Gianni Rotondo (Royal Caribbean). Gianluigi Aponte’s MSC, in fact, announced that they’ve increased their offering in 2018, when the firm will carry three million passengers.
The current trend for tailor-made cruises means the number of guests will grow even more, and become increasingly younger - including those under the age of 30 - with a proliferation of sailings tailored to the different tastes of cruisers.