European Ports See Drop in Visitors, Spending


Published Jun 29, 2015 3:56 PM by Reuters

European cruise destinations such as Santorini, Lisbon and Oslo suffered dwindling visitor numbers and spending last year for the first time in a decade as Americans cancelled trips to the Baltic and Mediterranean over geopolitical concerns.

Visits to European ports of call were down 7 percent after almost 9 percent growth a year earlier, a report issued by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) on Thursday showed.

Passengers and crew spent 3.64 billion euros ($4.08 billion)at ports in Europe last year according to the report, 4.2 percent less than in 2013.

American tourists, concerned about unrest in North African and adjacent eastern Mediterranean countries and about tensions between Russia and Ukraine, shied away from booking trips to the region, Michael Ungerer, chairman of CLIA Germany, told Reuters.

Tourists from Europe -- accounting for 30 percent of worldwide passengers and ranking second behind the United States -- backed off from certain destinations as well, Ungerer said.

"The Black Sea region has been removed completely from our schedules," he said, and destinations in the Gulf and in Asia had meanwhile become increasingly popular.

Europe is the world's second-largest cruise destination after the Caribbean, but some cruise operators like Carnival and Royal Caribbean cut capacity there last year.

The number of Europeans booking cruises remained stable at 6.4 million in 2014 as declining bookings in Britain, Italy and Spain -- partly affected by weak economies -- were offset by a growing number of bookings in Germany.

Germany for the first time replaced Britain as the largest European market with a market share of 28 percent. "The Germans still have some catching up to do and the range of offers there is growing faster than anywhere else," Ungerer said.

Worldwide, cruise operators served 22 million passengers last year, an increase of 3.4 percent over 2013.

CLIA said that as cruise operators, especially from North America, return capacity to Europe, markets there should recover.