Cruise firm tests city as its home port
‘Lack of passenger terminal a drawback’
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.
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.