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Cape Town set for record cruise tourist season

Source: Moneyweb, 15/04/2024

Industry injected an estimated R1.2bn into the Western Cape economy in the last financial year, with around 90 000 passengers and 38 000 crew members expected to step ashore in the current year.

For the first time in history, Friday (11 April) saw two of the world’s most famous cruise liners the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria dock in the Port of Cape Town at the same time.

The Queen Mary, concluding a 30-day voyage from Hong Kong, was undertaking a turnaround call in the Mother City. This included the disembarkation and embarkation of passengers for her next journey to New York in the US.

The Queen Victoria made a brief stopover for a turnaround call before continuing to Walvis Bay in Namibia.

The area now includes a food market with restaurants and coffee shops, a small craft gin distillery, and a brewery.

Red Sea risk

South African ports are currently benefitting from vessels avoiding the Red Sea as Yemen-based Houthi rebels targetcontainer, cruise, and other ships that would normally use the Suez Canal to access or head back to Europe.

The MSC Virtuosa the biggest cruise ship to dock in a South African port recently called at the Port of Durban’s Nelson Mandela Cruise Terminal to refuel and stock up as part of her return journey to Europe after being diverted to avoid risks in the Red Sea.

Read: MSC Virtuosa mega cruise ship calls in Durban to avoid Red Sea

Wesgro, the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, estimated in a report that the cruise industry has been a significant contributor to the province’s economy, generating around R1.2 billion in the 2022/23 season.

Although cruise ship passengers do not necessarily spend significant amounts on accommodation and hospitality when they disembark, since their voyages often include all meals and they sleep on the ship, benefits are reaped over the longer term.

Returning tourists

Research shows that 63% of cruise passengers have returned to a destination they first visited on a cruise ship.

“This is important for the Western Cape. This repeat tourism can increase incrementally over time as international visitors are introduced to the Western Cape and become regular visitors,” says Wesgro CEO Wrenelle Stander.

Bob Dixon, director of sales for Cunard Line, the Southampton-based shipping company that owns the ‘Two Queens’, among others, told Moneyweb its passengers rate Cape Town “exceptionally high”.

The rand’s favourable exchange rate against the dollar, the euro, and the pound means passengers who disembark are not shy about spending money at restaurants and shopping malls in the Mother City.

It is estimated that one full-time provincial job is created for every 30 arriving cruise passengers.

“The current 2023/24 season is seeing 65 confirmed ship visits. With an expected 90 000 passengers in the 2023-24 season, we know that roughly 3 000 new permanent jobs have been created in this season alone,” said Mireille Wenger, Western Cape MEC for Finance and Economic Development.

Moneyweb was part of a media tour of the Queen Mary 2 on Friday. The impressive cruise liner comprises 13 decks and can carry close to 2 700 passengers. Altogether 330 metres long and 67 metres high, the ship boasts eight restaurants, a nightclub, a theatre that can house an audience of 1 000 people, and two open decks, both with swimming pools and hot tubs.

The Queen Mary 2 has around 400 South Africans among its crew members.

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