02 APRIL 2003

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Record year for cruise line business

- 2002 sees over 30 per cent increase in niche market
- call for synergies between public/private sectors and tourism

Despite the fact that overall tourism had declined last year, 2002 nevertheless saw an unparalleled year for cruise liner tourism, with some 340,000 tourists from the niche sector visiting Malta last year, Tourism Minister Michael Refalo revealed yesterday.
The results, which were the best ever, represented an increase of more than 30 per cent over 2001’s figures. Visitors from Spain, the UK, the USA, France and Germany made up the main sources of supply and had together contributed close to 80 per cent of the total.
Refalo added that since 1999 the annual growth rate for cruise line business to Malta had increased by an average of 22 per cent.
Refalo explains, "Although tourism and cruise line activity both involve the arrival of visitors to Malta, they are completely separate activities. So much so that cruise line passengers are not included in tourist arrival statistics.
"This does not mean that tourism does not have an interest and does not support MMA to achieve such excellent results. We have in fact, through MTA, worked hand in hand."
While applauding the fact that the construction of the new cruise line terminal in Valletta was well on schedule and should meet its completion target, Refalo explained how serving and servicing the needs and interests of cruise line passengers was yet another means of generating more foreign exchange earnings for Malta.
He elaborates, "Rather than competing for resources and attractions it is essential that tourism and cruise business are well managed and that both activities benefit from being complementary to one another."
The Minister was speaking yesterday at a seminar on cruise iner business to Malta, which held the aim of exploring and finding the means to further specify areas where further synergies between public and private sector structures that support the cruise line business industry, could be built.
"In today’s day and age the name of the game is integrated resource management. Gone are the times when protecting one’s turf was the be all and end all," he explains, adding that the MTA’s Transport Issues Committee was one such structure that brought various interests together to work for one common goal.
"Tourism needs the help and input of other areas of the public administration and of the various private sector enterprises as much as they need tourism’s assistance and involvement."
Refalo also recommended that facilitating access to central Valletta be made a top priority.
He explains, "During their brief stay in Malta sightseeing and shopping are cruise line passengers’ main occupations. Not all passengers opt for conducted tours. A good number venture out on their own to find out for themselves and independently use different means of transport to visit Valletta.
"Valletta has much to offer in the way of attractions and shops. Our attractions and museums, not least our capital’s commercial outlets, can and should be better frequented and have the potential to create more wealth and earn foreign exchange. We must give our visitors every opportunity to spend and get a taste of the different experiences that we have on offer."
Refalo also explained how the cruise line phenomenon was catching on fast in Europe - with the UK, Spain, Germany and France emerging as the source market leaders.
The cruise line business world wide is valued at USD15 billion. "At the beginning of this year 30 new ships, costing USD12 billion between them, were either on order or ready for delivery in the next four year span. Cruise passengers are projected to increase by 60 per cent from 10 million in 2000 to 16 million in 2009. USA passengers are the industry’s main market and had topped seven million in 2002.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, 2 Cali House, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 02, Malta
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