Experts call for new Gulf cruise council
Dubai, December 16, 2008
A Gulf association is key to the promotion and development of the growing cruise industry in the region, said speakers at the Sixth Seatrade Middle East Cruise Conference in Dubai.
Keynote speaker, Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman and CEO of Costa Crociere – which has three cruise ships based in Dubai for the winter season - said a permanent forum was needed to debate and progress issues such as port infrastructure, shore excursions and immigration formalities.
His views were echoed by Michael Bayley, Senior Vice President International for Royal Caribbean Cruises.
“A body such as the European Cruise Council or Asian Cruise Association would be an excellent vehicle for collective development of the industry in the region, to include representatives from government, tour operators and cruise lines themselves.”
Regional destinations also endorsed the idea, with the CEO for tourism marketing and promotion from Bahrain, Mohammed Nass, backing the initiative.
“Cruise passenger numbers in Bahrain have tripled over the past year, and while our port is more used to dealing with cargo than people, we would welcome the establishment of a regional forum for cruise.”
Conference moderator, Seatrade chairman Chris Hayman, announced that plans were underway for Seatrade to host a dedicated cruise workshop next year which would assist co-operation and dialogue between those involved in the regional cruise sector.
“We are investigating hosting a three-day event in Dubai aimed at bringing together ports, destinations, shorex companies and cruise lines,” he said.
Meanwhile, conference delegates called for development of more infrastructure and promotion to widen the appeal of the Gulf beyond Dubai.
Hapag Lloyd managing director Sebestian Ahrens said that to increase the attractiveness of the region for upmarket cruise tourists, more emphasis should be placed on culture.
“While the Gulf has all the right ingredients for cruise, a lot more has to be done – there is a lot of work ahead to make the region boom as a premium cruise destination, with more on the itinerary than Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” he commented.
“You have to look at investing and creating destination content for high value cruisers, and here transnational co-operation between countries is necessary to highlight the differences between ports.”
Despite an upbeat prognosis on the expansion of the regional cruise sector, conference speakers sounded a warning about possible repercussions from piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
Silversea executive vice president for strategy development, Aris Zarpanely, said while the line was planning future itineraries to develop Gulf cruising, it had to take in to account the risk of piracy.
“We have new ideas, including Dubai-Mumbai itineraries but because of the situation, cannot risk introducing them at the moment.”
Zarpanely said, however, that Silversea was committed to the region and would be looking at a three-month homeport season with possible mix of five, seven, 10 and 12 day itineraries for the future.
In addition, George Stathopoulos, consultant for Louis Lines, said the company was looking to put a cruise ship in the Gulf. “We are definitely considering Dubai (as a home port),” he said.
“We will not copy others and would not compete directly with the mainstream operators already here but believe Dubai is an excellent candidate for small and medium lines such as ourselves, too,” he added.-TradeArabia News Service