THE Port Elizabeth harbour, along with a number of other ports around the country, is gearing up for an influx of cruise liners and passenger vessels over the coming months.
Eight luxury cruise ships and 10 passenger vessels will call at South African ports in the 2015-16 season, according to Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA).
TNPA, landlord of all eight South African ports including cruise terminals, said last week the eight luxury cruise liners would call at Cape Town, Durban, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, East London and Richards Bay.
A total of 60 000 passengers travelled from Durban in 2006 and the figure mushroomed to 217 000 last year, TNPA data shows.
The majority of passengers on cruise liners were South Africans, most of them from inland and landlocked areas such as Gauteng, TNPA said.
The rise in cruise liner use mirrors international trends.
The international market has grown from five million passengers to more than 20 million in the past 17 years.
The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the world’s fourth-largest cruise liner operator, expects 108 000 passengers in South Africa in the 2015-16 season, sales and marketing director Allan Foggitt said.
MSC’s South African operations have experienced phenomenal growth, Foggitt said.
The company’s passenger numbers had risen from 70 000 to 108 000 in the past five years.
Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism chief executive Mandlakazi Skefile said the metro was privileged to have a port which facilitated stops for cruise liner tourism – enabling passengers from around the globe to disembark and discover the destination’s attractions.
She said this provided tourism spin-offs for the local economy.
“Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism can foresee a boost as we expect passengers to encourage family and friends to visit the destination after their own experience,” she said.
The South African cruise season runs from late October to early May.
Five liners are expected to dock in Port Elizabeth during the remainder of this month and next month.