According to figures published last week by the National Statistics Office (NSO), 2016 was yet another record year for cruise passengers visiting Malta. A total of 682,222 passenger movements were recorded, meaning an increase of 2% on 2015. As per NSO statistics, which exclude embarking passengers, the 2016 landed passengers amounted to 626,082.
The Minister for Tourism Hon. Dr. Edward Zammit Lewis welcomed these positive figures for the local cruise sector. The Minister noted that according to a study commissioned by the Valletta Cruise Port, it is estimated that in 2015 the cruise industry contributed around €90 million through direct expenditure into the Maltese Economy. ‘’Moreover, the multiplier effect increases this contribution and creates even further economic benefits,’’ explained Minister Dr. Zammit Lewis.
Minister Zammit Lewis stated that the sister island of Gozo is also reaping extensive economic benefits from the success generated by the cruise sector. In 2016, according to figures produced by Transport Malta, 19 cruise port calls were registered in Gozo, and that carried nearly 7,000 passengers. ‘’This number of passengers is actually double that recorded in 2012,’’ continued the Minister for Tourism.
The Minister noted that Malta is strategically positioned in the middle of the Mediterranean and also enjoys a resilient level of security while this industry is serving as an important incentive for regeneration projects and investment particularly within the Grand Harbour region.
Minister Dr. Zammit Lewis affirmed that Government is committed to continue investing and working to maintain the cruise sector on the growth path in the short and long term through more infrastractural investment and further collaboration with the stakeholders in order to attract more cruise lines toward Malta and Gozo.
Economic revenue from cruising is not the only contribution that Malta benefits from this sector. Passengers spend a few hours on local shores and enjoy a minor taste of what the country has to offer, that is, a fantastic tourist destination and a natural choice for their holidays. Many passengers are charmed by our islands during their short visit and decide to return for a longer holiday. ‘’Cruising is serving as an exceptional and very effective showcase for our islands’’ explained the Minister for Tourism.
Valletta Cruise Port stated that 2016 was another very positive year with 42 cruise companies and 81 different cruise ships calling the port. Clearly, the cruise industry is growing year-on-year and is increasingly contributing towards Malta’s economic growth and prosperity.
During the year, Valletta Cruise Port, a subsidiary of the biggest cruise port operator worldwide, Global Ports Holding, was the recipient of two awards namely, the Best Terminal Operator by Cruise Insight and the award for Best Mediterranean Port & Destination by Cruise Excellence Awards. These awards reflect the company’s drive toward excellence and certify the efficient port infrastructure and outstanding service, including passenger flows, safety and security, besides the attractiveness of the destination itself.
Acquiring ‘Homeporting’ operations is key to the growth of this sector and there is intense competition within all Mediterranean cruise ports on this front. Government is committed to work relentlessly together with all stakeholders to attract more cruise lines that are interested in offering cruises that set sail and terminate at our harbour. ‘’Therefore, it was of great satisfaction that last year we secured our second regular homeporting operation for Malta, with the prestigious P&O Cruises' Oceana,’’ stated Minister Zammit Lewis.
During 2017, this cruise line is expected to make 27 port calls carrying over 100,000 passengers on a Fly and Cruise programme, together with another 5 port calls where another 10,000 passengers would be visiting Malta as a port of call. The Minister for Tourism stated that thanks to such new initiatives the cruisel sector in Malta is succesfully growing and our tourism industry, and economy at large, is benefitting both directly and indirectly.
‘’These results reflect the coordinated and collaborated drive amongst all stakeholders, particularly Valletta Cruise Port, to continue developing our product and promote Malta as a unique and effective destination for Mediterranean cruises,’’ concluded the Minister for Tourism Dr. Zammit Lewis.
Furthermore, the Malta Cruise Network Forum was also established bringing together in one forum all stakeholders to ensure that Malta delivers efficiently, reliably and flexibly to the cruise lines and their passengers, while ensuring alignment among all parties involved.
The forecasts for financial year 2017 raise the bar even higher, with a target of over 700,000 passenger movements through 330 port calls.
Stephen Xuereb, CEO of Valletta Cruise Port and COO of Global Ports Holding commented that, “The cruise industry is growing with more new ships being ordered in line with increased demand. Between 2016 and 2026 the total of new beds coming on-board exceeds 220,000 worldwide. Continuous timely investment in our infrastructure and our service delivery is paramount for us to remain competitive. A planning application for a €6m project to widen Quays 4/5 has been submitted. Plans are being finalised to redevelop the Old Power House to create further quayside cultural and entertainment, with additional check-in facilities. 2017 is also the run-up year to Valletta 2018, where Valletta will hold the title of the European Capital of Culture, with the calendar of events adding exciting layers to what the destination already offers.”