Gibraltar expects to receive approximately 350.000 cruise visitors during the current 2011 season, announced Deputy Chief Minister Joe Holliday during the reception for the inaugural call to the Rock of MSC Poesia.
Holliday highlighted the importance of MSC Cruises and the inclusion of Gibraltar on their itineraries in the last couple of years.
“Considering it is only the end of March, we are also encouraged by the fact that over 270,000 passengers are currently expected in 2012, which augers well for the year”, said the Gibraltar official.
This year MSC Cruises is scheduled to call 15 times with MSC POESIA (built in 2008) coming again on five further occasions over the next few weeks. On 11 April, Gibraltar will also be welcoming sister-ship MSC MUSICA (2006) for the first time.
In spite of the encouraging picture Gibraltar’s opposition spokesman for Tourism Joseph Garcia has said 2010 has been the worst year for cruise ship calls since 2005. In a statement Dr Garcia declared it is “unacceptable that despite many millions of pounds spent the number of cruise calls has slumped in this way.”
“The number of cruise ships in 2010 has fallen sharply compared to 2009 and there has been a corresponding fall in the number of passengers as well. This is a matter of concern since cruise passengers are high spending tourists and the drop has been felt by traders in Gibraltar” said Garcia in a statement.
“The number of cruise calls fell from 238 in 2009 to 175 in 2010 — a drop of around 26% and it means Gibraltar has had the worst year for cruise ship calls since 2005.
The Government has argued in the past that it is not the number of cruise calls that matters, but the number of passengers on board the vessels and that with larger cruise vessels, it is possible to have less ship calls resulting in more passengers. However, this argument is not valid because the number of cruise passengers has fallen as well from 348,199 in 2009 to 304,210 in 2010. This is a drop of about 12.5%”.
Garcia pointed out that while this is happening in Gibraltar other ports in the area continue to grow. He mentioned that the number of cruise passengers in Spanish ports as a whole went up by 17.6% last year, at a time when Gibraltar went down by 26%.
Spanish ports received 7.13 million cruise passengers in 2010, which trebles the number over 10 years from two million in 2000.
“In Malaga, for example, the number of cruise calls in 2010 increased to 321 from 301 the previous year. The number of cruise passengers at Malaga went up by 35% on the 2009 figure to a total of 659,123. Government has said in the past that it is unfair to compare Gibraltar with Malaga because the latter is the capital of the Costa del Sol”.
“Yet when Gibraltar’s results are compared with Cadiz we do not fare much better; the fact is that Cadiz obtained 294 cruise calls in 2010, which is a growth of 33% and they also achieved a growth of 42% in passenger numbers to 336,761.”