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An MSC Cruises ship in the port of Getxo. L. A. Gómez
Cruise ship travel boom in Spain with more than 600,000 passengers setting sail in 2023

Cruise ship travel boom in Spain with more than 600,000 passengers setting sail in 2023

But the increase in cruise ship tourism has sparked protests from local residents in some ports of call, fed up with hordes of tourists clogging up their streets during the peak months

Edurne Martínez

Madrid

Monday, 26 February 2024, 17:35

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Tourists aboard cruise ships that docked into Spanish ports - including the Port of Malaga - exceeded 600,000 passengers last year, the latest data shows.

The figure is close to the record 700,000 cruise passengers registered in 2012. Chief executive of MSC Cruises Fernando Pacheco said at a press conference in Madrid the demand for cruises is growing year after year.

His company carried "more than half" of last year's total cruise passengers (350,000) and Pacheco predicted an increase in 2024 of between 10-15%, the same level as the expected price increase. "In 2023 we sold almost twice as many places as we sold in 2019," added Pacheco, who pointed out the average amount paid by each passenger per person per night in Spain last year was 120 euros all-inclusive except for day excursions.

Pacheco said one of the reasons for an increase in passengers is the reduction in air capacity following the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to fewer people paying higher prices to travel by plane.

But the increase in cruise ship tourism has sparked protests from local residents in some ports of call, fed up with hordes of tourists clogging up their streets during the peak months The city with the greatest social protest is Barcelona, as confirmed by MSC, which is why they are carrying out social and environmental sustainability strategies with the industry and the city council.

Pacheco said his company has signed an agreement with the city council in which MSC commits to not taking on water in Barcelona on the days that their ships are docked there. They have their own desalination infrastructure whereby they collect water from the sea, use it for all the ship's non-drinking operations and, once filtered, return it to the sea.

Departures from the port of Bilbao

The company's strategy is for Europe to compete with the USA in the cruise sector, as currently more than 50% of the passenger volume comes from North America. "One of our challenges is to continue to grow in Spanish ports to continue to make this market bigger," he said. Pacheco pointed out Bilbao will be one of the ports where they wish to start operating out of "soon" in a bid to "give a new life" to the company's fleet of smaller ships.

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