Jobs and income generated by cruise tourism

The story of the Valletta Waterfront since its launch three years ago is being presented through some very high-impact and suggestive photography in an exhibition, entitled Life As It Happens - Valletta Waterfront Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.

Today is perhaps the right time to analyse what we have achieved and to start planning in an even more strategic manner for tomorrow. As we lack locally generated research in this industry, I would like to refer to the comprehensive analysis Contribution Of Cruise Tourism To The Economies Of Europe, undertaken by G. P. Wild (International) Limited and Business Research and Economic Advisors, as engaged by the European Cruise Council and its partners. This study makes for some eye-opening reading.

This report highlights the phenomenal growth of cruise tourism in Europe and its economic significance. In 1996, an estimated 1.2 million Europeans cruised. By 2006 this figure had trebled to 3.4 million, representing an increase of 183 per cent. A further 17 per cent growth in 2007 has taken the figure to a record high of four million.

In 2006, cruise industry direct expenditures increased by 27 per cent over 2005. In turn, they generated a 25 per cent growth in total output, a 20 per cent expansion in total employment and a 25 per cent increase in employee compensation. These economic impacts included the following: €23.9 billion in total output, 225,586 full-time equivalent jobs and €7.5 billion in employee compensation.

Cruise lines and their passengers also spent €10.6 billion in direct spending in four different areas: Cruise passengers, construction and maintenance of cruise ships, cruise line purchases in support of their operations, and compensation of cruise line administrative staff and crew in Europe. Therefore, let's completely discard the local idea that one-day cruise visitors do not require a significant amount of services and products.

Different European countries benefit in different ways. Some were able to take a bigger share of the total direct spending. For example, Italy managed to grab 30 per cent (€3.2 billion) as the leading centre for cruise ship construction in Europe, and for being the largest cruise embarkation and destination market.

Furthermore, throughout Europe during 2006, cruise tourism expenditures generated €3.6 billion in compensation.

Malta actually stands in a rather good position, but we at Viset believe that, as a country we can reap much better results if we coordinate and focus our efforts.

According to the same report, with €77 million in total compensation impacts, Malta accounted for one per cent of the total European impact. Furthermore, with 382,400 passengers in 2006, Malta ranked eighth, with a market share of 2.4 per cent of total European cruise passengers.

Businesses in virtually every sector of the economy can be positively impacted by the cruise industry here in Malta. On the Direct Cruise Industry Expenditures By Country 2006 (ECC) ranking, Malta ranked 11th with €100 million in direct spending, a 7.8 per cent growth from 2005, and accounting for one per cent share of the total

This is not to be underestimated - especially when one considers that Malta is a single-port country and primarily a destination market. In fact, Malta was the first single-port destination on the ECC ranking, with all preceding countries having multiple ports.

If yesterday and today, through diligence and hard work, we have succeeded in attracting a significant number of cruise tourists to Malta and in establishing the framework in this sector, for tomorrow the cruise industry in Malta needs to take a close look at the performance of other European countries and use them as benchmarks.

Doing this, one would immediately notice that the best performers participated in all segments of this industry, and not just by being destination markets. This can be seen for example with Italy, the UK and Germany.

Malta can achieve this performance by being a source market for cruise passengers, by promoting our country to cruise companies to maintain headquarters facilities and providing crew, providing shipbuilding and repair services, providing provisioning and fuelling of cruise ships and other products and services and, of course, by improving our product offer so passengers spend more of their money in Malta.

Coupled with targeted and aggressive marketing in the major source markets for cruise passengers, our country needs to generate enough brand appeal to turn Malta into a "must-see" destination for cruise passengers and make it more saleable to itinerary planners.

So, if tomorrow we want to capitalise on the growth of cruise tourism in Europe, and create positive ripple effects across the whole economy, we need to think today beyond the number of passengers onboard that cruise liner entering our Grand Harbour, and into the infinite possibilities that are open for virtually every business sector in Malta.

In the meantime, until August 30, do find some time to visit our exhibition at the Valletta Waterfront. It runs from Monday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is free of charge. One does not need a lot of imagination to understand that this country has great potential for both jobs and income in cruise tourism.

• Mr Giordimaina is marketing executive of Viset Malta plc

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