Cruise liners carry huge economic potential

But PE port must undergo significant facelift to attract a bigger share of the pie

Cunard's Queen Victoria in all her splendour in the port of Port Elizabeth on Wednesday April 10 2019 before leaving for Cape Town that evening
Cunard's Queen Victoria in all her splendour in the port of Port Elizabeth on Wednesday April 10 2019 before leaving for Cape Town that evening
Image: Salvelio Meyer

An estimated R3m.

That is the potential economic impact of one cruise ship carrying 2,000 passengers docking in the Port of Port Elizabeth for just one day.

But the port will have to go through a significant facelift over the next few years to become more competitive against other global and national players, according to tourism experts.

This must include an interactive and attractive cruise terminal, ease of access to transport and coaches, restaurants and boutiques, as well as creating a port environment that looks and feels safer.

Speaking at the second session of a series of tourism indabas being hosted by the metro, economic development political head Queenie Pink said a dedicated cruise liner terminal would be built as part of the waterfront development plan by Transnet.

She said the terminal must become part of Transnet’s immediate priority programmes.

Leading tourism professional Peter Myles said the projected throughput of cruise liners in SA stood at about one-million passengers by 2025.

The average age of these passengers would be 50 and older.

This, he said, spoke to the need to develop terminals that were user-friendly, secure and mimicked luxury.

“Developing really interesting infrastructure, like the waterfront, like the refurbishment of Bayworld and the attractions at the Baakens River Valley, will all play a part in attracting more cruise liners to stop here,” he said.

“The cruise industry is considered now as the fastest growing category in the leisure travel market.”

Myles said the industry would need to look closely at whether port charges and taxes were competitive with other cruise line destinations and what could be done in developing more interesting excursions in and around the city.

Akorn Destination Management’s Paul Bruning said cruise liner itineraries were planned at least two years in advance.

As such, issues of capacity at the port and building a multipurpose terminal would need to happen almost immediately to grow the Bay’s slice of the cruise liner pie.

Akorn manages about 70% of the market share of the cruise liner business.

Bruning, who offered insight into the basic but necessary structures that needed to be rectified or put in place, said exciting excursions were the only way to get money back into the city and into the hands of local business.

“We spend a lot of time in the market, engaging with these cruise liners on a daily basis.

“The cruise liners coming to the African region are not the mega, 5,000 passenger ships.

“The average size is around 650-750 passengers.”

But he said there were massive opportunities for local tour planners and land programme managers because most cruise liners put on a markup of between 50% and 100% on the tour packages booked on board.

This gives local tour operators a primary opportunity to offer price-competitive packages.

“About 47% of passengers are buying their tours elsewhere, so it’s not just about getting ships to come to the region.

“But we must realise that we can’t grow bigger than the infrastructure that is available,” Bruning said.

“When building a multipurpose terminal, you cannot expect its functionality to rely solely on cruise ships.

“Let’s look at a place like Cape Town – it’s a work in progress, but their terminal has a signature restaurant, offices, a spa and a massive space where they have built a film studio.

“You need to look at multiple options to generate revenue, you don’t have the cruise ships for a long time when they do come here, so you cannot just rely on them.”

Pink said the strategy being implemented by the city would pay special attention to SMME beneficiation.

“SMMEs are somehow left out and do not benefit as they should from the cruise liners.

“This must change and we will engage with the ground handlers to give business to our emerging black businesses in the tourism industry.

“Working together and growing our tourism SMME business through support by bigger players will be central to our plans to develop and grow the cruise line industry in Nelson Mandela Bay.”


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