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Cruise tourism takes Barcelona back

The cruise ships MSC Magnifica and MSC Poesia left the Port of Barcelona last weekend to begin their round-the-world voyages of about four months.

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Cruise tourism takes Barcelona back

The cruise ships MSC Magnifica and MSC Poesia left the Port of Barcelona last weekend to begin their round-the-world voyages of about four months. In both expeditions, 591 Spaniards have embarked, four times more than in the last edition, as explained by the third largest cruise company in the world.

Applauded by some, for the business and employment it generates, and reviled by others, considering that it contributes to mass tourism, this example shows that cruise tourism is looking at the splendor that it experienced in 2019 in Spain. The pandemic forced the cancellation of the activity and in 2021 it gradually resumed. Now with fewer restrictions, 2022 has been a year of transition before 2023, which is expected to see full recovery.

Spanish ports added 7.46 million cruise passengers in 2022 (data up to November), 74.5% of the figure for the same period in 2019. Barcelona is consolidated as the main port, with 2.2 million tourists in the eleven first months of the year, 72% of the pre-Covid figure, the year before the pandemic, which is taken as a reference and also set the historical record.

Barcelona is followed by the ports of the Balearic Islands, with 1.67 million tourists (36% less than in 2019); Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, with 778,118 (-37%) and Valencia, which already exceeds the pre-Covid record by 40%, with 598,358 travelers.

If one looks at the number of calls, it could be concluded that the shipping companies have opted for a normal year, with 4,216 operations between January and November in Spain, 6% more than in 2019.

The companies have decided to put more or less the same offer on the market as before the pandemic, but the demand has not responded in the same way. An explanation could be found in the North American market, which opened its borders at the end of 2021.

In the sector they explain that tourists from that region book a year in advance, so it is expected that in 2023 a public that represents approximately one fifth of cruise passengers from ports such as Barcelona can return en masse.

For example, last October, Royal's vice president for Europe, Bert Hernández, predicted that in 2023 there will be "a record number of cruise passengers from the US in Europe." "In 2022 we have seen that North Americans stay in the Caribbean, while Europeans choose trips to their continent; North Americans know that going to Europe is now cheap and they will travel en masse," he advanced. Its competitor MSC has reported that in 2022 it has "broken the historical sales record". The prospects seem positive in Spain, where the incidence of Chinese tourism is almost nil in this segment.

For this exercise, the Barcelona Port Authority (APB) estimates that some 800 ships will once again pass through its facilities, the same number as before the pandemic, with MSC, Royal and Costa Caribbean as the leaders. The challenge now will be for the ships to fill up again as in 2019, something very likely.

The improvement in the cruise sector in the city occurs when the Barcelona City Council has reopened the debate on the industry, despite the fact that the APB is complying with the agreement it reached with the mayor herself, Ada Colau, in 2018, consisting of limiting the number of terminals to seven and concentrating all of them in the Attached Dock. To raise the last of all of them, a tender has been put out to which Royal Caribbean and a group made up of Norwegian Cruise, Viking and Virgin are currently opting.

The sector, which in 2018 generated an impact of some 1,080 million in the city, seeks to increase the number of tourists who begin or end their journey in Barcelona, ​​to avoid the crowds caused by tourists who stop over for a few hours. If in 2017 46.9% of the cruise passengers arriving in the Catalan capital were transit, in 2022 it was 43.1%.

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