New figures released today suggest that 2014 will see the first fall in cruise ship passenger numbers visiting Italy for more than a decade.
While 2013 figures are estimated to show a five per cent overall increase on 2012, next year’s numbers are expected to be down. Hardly surprising, in light of the fact that a few of the usual summer Mediterranean mega ships have been pulled from the region. Royal Caribbean had already announced one ship less sailing the Med next year, and Carnival is leaving Europe altogether over the course of 2014.
Next year’s drop in numbers is conservatively estimated at 6.9 per cent, with actual visitor numbers pegged at over ten million for Italy as a whole.
Another factor being cited for the withdrawal of some cruise ships is a lack of flexibility among Italian port authorities in terms of berthing arrangements, a bugbear that has frustrated the major cruise lines for a number of seasons of late.
The figures, compiled by Venice based company Riposte, Turismo, analysed data supplied from some thirty six ports around mainland Italy and Sicily. It estimates that a staggering 11,4 million people will visit Italian ports over the course of 2013- up 5.1 per cent on 2012- but expects numbers to tail off next year.
It’s interesting to note the numbers involved for the principal ports of call, as listed in order below;
1) Civitavecchia, the port of call for Rome, lists 2.4 million passengers from around 951 cruise ship visits.
2) Venice claims 1.8 million from some 548 ship visits.
3) Naples had 1.2 million visitors from 517 different ship calls.
4) Genoa, which has just clocked over a million visitors from some 290 calls.
The figures for Genoa especially are revealing; the port has long been seen primarily as an embarkation/debarkation port, rather than as a destination in its own right like Venice and Rome.
However, Italy as a whole remains the biggest draw on the Mediterranean circuit. With a string of ‘greatest hits’ attractions such as Florence, Pisa, Rome, Sorrento and Pompeii all within easy sailing distance of each other, the country is still uniquely placed to showcase a huge amount of it’s history and culture, even over the course of a relatively short cruise.
Also encouraging for the long term Italian scene as a whole is the continuing growth in year round cruising. Uniquely sited in the centre of the Mediterranean, Italy offers convenient embarkation ports in Genoa and Rome to the Western Mediterranean, and from both Venice and, to a lesser extent, Bari, to the currently convoluted Eastern Mediterranean.
The figures cited above probably represent no more than a temporary dip in what has been a steady growth market for many years. As ever, stay tuned.