The 2nd Seatrade Winter Cruising Forum has closed in Turkey, with delegates leaving Istanbul after two days of announcements and discussion on the way ahead for off-season deployment in the region.
Reacting to yesterday’s opening session announcement by the Greek Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism that cabotage restrictions would soon be lifted, cruise line executives in this morning’s conference welcomed the action taken by the Greek government, saying that it will be seen by the industry as an important decision for cruising in the eastern Mediterranean.
In welcoming delegates to the conference on Tuesday morning, Seatrade Chairman Chris Hayman said, “In the four years since Seatrade’s first winter cruising forum, the strategy of deploying cruise ships on winter itineraries has developed considerably. This event will look at the drivers of winter deployment in the Mediterranean and in other parts of the world and some of the opportunities and challenges it presents to the cruise industry. Istanbul and Turkey provide an ideal location for this event, strategically located as natural links to other cruising grounds in the Black Sea and Middle East.”
With high fuel costs making lengthy repositioning voyages uneconomical, seasonality is key for the cruise lines - over the last few years off-season cruising has grown beyond all expectations. Cruise line speakers at the conference talked of successes and challenges in deploying ships year-round.
Holland America Line’s Director of Deployment & Itinerary Planning, Simon Douwes, admitted he had not initially been convinced of the merits of winter cruising, but that he had, “moved from being a non-believer to a believer”, and was now positive that off-season deployment would continue to expand. Holland America Line will deploy Rotterdam year-round from Rotterdam starting October 2012.
Bruce Krumrine, VP - Shore Excursions Europe & Exotics, Princess Cruises, talked of “raising the bar”, with Princess’ new ship’s deployment plans still being finalised. If the 330m, 4000 passenger Royal Princess were to be deployed in the Med, she would be one of the largest ships to cruise there.
New itineraries, new homeports needed
Today the conference programme focused on Turkey and its status as a cruise crossroads. Erkunt Öner, CEO of the forum’s principal sponsor Tura Turizm, opened the session by speaking about new port development in the region, including major expansion projects at Istanbul, Sochi and Batumi. He went on to say that, with 222,355 berths deployed in the Med this year and 4.5m passengers visiting the region as a whole, new itineraries and more homeports are crucial.
Steve Riester, VP, Planning and Analysis, Norwegian Cruise Line, recalled planning his first winter cruise itineraries immediately following Seatrade’s first Winter Cruising Forum in Malta in 2008. He told delegates, among them many regional ports, destinations and stakeholders, that his company is committed to the region but still looking to improve itineraries – and that now was the right time to look for new ports.
In the Black Sea, Carnival Corp called at eight ports in four countries for a total of 66 calls this year. Giora Israel, SVP Ports & Destination Development, suggested that, with the cultural diversity and hidden treasures in this largely undiscovered region, there is room for more growth.
Over the past two days, all cruise line speakers have reiterated the need for sustainable port development and good forward planning, a point which they drove home this afternoon when meeting one-to-one with some of the region’s ports, destinations and tour operators during the event’s much-anticipated workshop.
Delegates were treated to warm Turkish hospitality throughout the event, with a Welcome Reception at the Çıragan Palace on Monday evening and a spectacular Gala Dinner at Adile Sultan Palace last night. Invigorated by a night cruise on the Bosphorous, guests enjoyed fine Turkish cuisine and were entertained by the renowned Istanbul 12 orchestra and the mesmerizing Asena, Turkey’s most famous belly dancer.
The 2nd Seatrade Winter Cruising Forum took place under the auspices of the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Tura Turizm at the Çıragan Palace Kempinski, Istanbul. The event was sponsored by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Istanbul Seaport, Izmir Chamber of Commerce, Sahinoglu Group, Sea Song Tours, TÜRSAB (Association of Turkish Travel Agencies) and the Undersecreteriat of Maritime Affairs and supported by MedCruise and Turkish Airlines. The forum was organised by Seatrade.