Cruise firm tests city as its home port

‘Lack of pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal a draw­back’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - BOOKS - SARAH MARCH­MONT

MSC CRUISES is ex­per­i­ment­ing with mak­ing Cape Town a home port where cruises start and fin­ish, rather than just a stop­ping-off point.

Cruise tourism is an im­por­tant part of the tourism econ­omy that the gover nment wants to boost, and the main cruise line op­er­a­tor in Souther n Africa is ex­pand­ing its ser­vice.

Stefano Vig­oriti, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of MSC Cruises in South Africa, told the Week­end Ar­gus that a port stop in Cape Town has been a big favourite with round-the-world cruises so it wanted “to try Cape Town as a home port”. Un­til now, Dur­ban has al­ways been the com­pany’s only home port in the re­gion.

Vig­oriti said, how­ever, that the lack of in­fra­struc­ture nec­es­sary for the cruise in­dus­try was a draw­back in Cape Town as there were no struc­tures in place – such as a pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal at the V&A Water­front – for ef­fi­ciently load­ing and un­load­ing pas­sen­gers.

Yet the cruise in­dus­try is grow­ing rapidly and the com­pany is will­ing to try to make Cape Town work.

He said in a state­ment that the com­pany was so con­fi­dent of con­tin­ued growth in the cruise ship in­dus­try that it had brought back the nine-storey MSC Sin­fo­nia for the sec­ond time and would op­er­ate a sec­ond ship, MSC Melody, si­mul­ta­ne­ously dur­ing this 2010/2011 sea­son.

A study on the cruise in­dus­try in South Africa was launched in Dur­ban aboard the MSC Sin­fo­nia late last month, with Min­is­ter for Tourism Marthi­nus van Schalk­wyk in at­ten­dance.

At the launch, he said the re­port had been com­mis­sioned on cruise tourism, rep­re­sent­ing port cities and prov­inces and other stake­hold­ers.

Van Schalk­wyk said the Depart­ment of Tourism would con­sult with rel­e­vant en­ti­ties and in­dus­tries on how to “ad­dress con­straints, fa­cil­i­tate pas­sen­ger tran­sit, en­cour­age cruise pas­sen­gers to visit port cities and the sur­round­ing ar­eas, and ul­ti­mately in­crease eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties for com­mu­ni­ties in and around coastal cities”.

He said the global tourism in­dus­try had seen tremen­dous growth since 1980 – from 1.4 mil­lion pas­sen­gers, to an es­ti­mated 15.4 mil­lion by last year. Strate­gies for ex­pand­ing niche tourism prod­ucts, such as the cruise in­dus­try, were an im­por­tant part of the goal to make tourism one of the six key sec­tors of South Africa’s eco­nomic growth.

De­spite global eco­nomic con­di­tions, Van Schalk­wyk said South Africa was out­per­form­ing com­peti­tors in terms of tourists.

“The fig­ures for tourist ar­rivals show that from Jan­uary to Au­gust this year our tourist ar­rivals were more than 5.2 mil­lion, which is an in­crease of 17.4 per­cent com­pared to the first eight months of 2009.”

Van Schalk­wyk said both the govern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor – es­pe­cially the cruise line in­dus­try – needed to take re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­vide high­qual­ity ser­vice and the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture.

“We will there­fore work very closely with the cruise line in­dus­try to en­sure that pack­ages and ex­cur­sions are de­vel­oped and pas­sen­gers are en­cour­aged to visit our shores, en­joy what we have on of­fer and in­spire other trav­ellers to also visit South Africa.”

The MSC Sin­fo­nia will cruise from Dur­ban to Mozam­bique and the In­dian Ocean Is­lands in the first half of next year, and the MSC Melody will of­fer new desti­na­tions out of Dur­ban and Cape Town.

sarah.march­mont@inl.co.za

FAIREST OF ALL: Cape Town has proved the most pop­u­lar port of call among pas­sen­gers cruis­ing the South African coast, says Stefano Vig­oriti of MSC Cruises.

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