Seatrade Europe fair in September 2013 at Hamburg Messe

  • Published by Vedat

Cruises continue to enjoy great popularity: In 2012 more than 6.1 million Europeans took a cruise, setting a new record.

So far the majority of passengers have hailed from the UK. But Germany is hard on the heels of Europe's No. 1 seafaring nation: Including river cruises, nearly two million Germans took to the water last year, a 7.1 per cent increase on the previous year. Sea cruise sales rose by 11.3 to a €2.6 bn. total, says a study published by the German Travel Association, DRV. "Cruises are an essential part of the wide-ranging choices offered by the travel market," says Richard J. Vogel, CEO of TUI Cruises and Chairman of the Ship Committee of the German Ship-owners Association, DRV.

Holidays on the water are probably the fastest-growing segment of the travel market, having doubled in volume within as little as eight years across Europe: "This reflects the fact that the European cruise industry provides quality, innovation, value and great range of choice," says Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, Chairman of the industry association Cruise Lines International Europe (CLIA Europe).

An ideal background for Seatrade Europe, the leading trade event of the European cruise and rivercruise industry, which will take place at the Hamburg Messe fair site from 24 to 26 September. "Seatrade Europe offers industry experts the best possible environment for sharing ideas and taking the first steps towards implementing them," says Bernd Aufderheide, Chairman of the Board of Hamburg Messe und Congress GmbH. More than 250 exhibitors from roughly 50 nations will be presenting their products and services in Hamburg.  

Full Order Books

The cruise industry's vigorous growth benefits the shipbuilding industry, as well: For example, the newbuild "AIDAstella" was delivered in March 2013. And at the end of April, the largest cruise vessel ever built in Germany, called Norwegian Breakaway, will be delivered on schedule to her owner, Norwegian Cruise Line. The German ship builders Meyer Werft and Neptun Werft continue to be among the top players in their respective segments. Meyer's current order book lists six additional large cruiseships as well as specialised vessels, while Neptun is to complete 14 river cruisers by 2014.

In 2012, Meyer Werft and its river cruiseship sister company, Neptun Werft completed seven river cruisers and three seagoing cruiseships, including: "Disney Fantasy" for Disney Cruise Line, Florida; "Celebrity Reflection" for US cruiseship operator Celebrity Cruises; and the club ship "AIDAmar" for AIDA Cruises, Rostock, Germany.

Fincantieri likewise looks back on a successful business year. In spite of the difficulties challenging the maritime sector, the Italian shipyard completed 2012 with a sales result close to €2.4 bn., and an improved EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation) of €137 million. Following the acquisition of STX Europe's Offshore business, Fincantieri is now the world's fifth largest shipbuilder, and one of the top suppliers in the high-end segment. Quite recently Fincantieri secured an order for two large cruiseships from Viking Ocean Cruises (to be delivered in 2015 and 2016, respectively).

The European shipbuilders and their suppliers play a key role in the market: Of the total number of 20 ocean-going vessels (including one option by Royal Caribbean) scheduled for delivery between mid-2013 and 2016, 17 are being built by STX France, STX Finland, Fincantieri or Meyer Werft, and only three by Asian shipyards. The combined order book has an estimate value in excess of US$13 bn. "The cruise industry is one of the few sectors in Europe currently generating growth," says Rob Ashdown, Secretary General of CLIA Europe. It generates employment for more than 315,000 people across Europe, from shipyards and marine equipment producers to ports and coastal communities, he adds. Cruise companies operating in Europe jointly spend more than €15 bn. per year, and 40 per cent of that amount goes into products and services such as food and beverages, travel agency fees and insurance premiums.

Popular Destinations and Routes

The region most popular among European cruise tourists last year was the Mediterranean, with a total of 3.5 million passengers. But other, "cold water" coastal areas, such as Norway, Iceland and Greenland, are becoming favourites, as well, with Greenland increasing the number of passengers handled by ten per cent last year, registering 1.33 million in total. Europe's best-loved cruise destination is Barcelona, according to statistics published by CLIA Europe (formerly European Cruise Council, ECC). Roughly 2.7 million passengers from all over the world pass through the Catalan capital every year. By comparison, the UK's leading tourism port, Southampton, is visited by about 1.5 million passengers annually. Hamburg is the focus of the booming German cruise industry: In 2012 the number of travellers visiting the city totalled 430,329, a 37 per cent increase on the previous year, and a new record for the time-honoured German port city.

The Fascination of Ships

For more and more tourists, the ships themselves are key points of interest: "The ship and everything it offers on board has become the focus of a unique holiday experience," says TUI Cruises CEO Vogel. For example, the Australian multi millionaire Clive Palmer has ordered a near-exact replica of the legendary Titanic from Chinese shipyard SCS Jinling Shipyard US$500 million at a price tag. "Titanic II" is expected to put to sea in 2016, taking guests from Southampton to New York City. Fantasy abounds when it comes to on-board facility design: The newly-built "AIDAstella" features a real-life birch grove. At the Norwegian Breakaway's water slide paradise guests can try out the thrill of free-falling; and Royal Caribbean began offering pink-coloured Barbie doll cabins for "little princesses" in March.

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