The highest-ever number of cruise liner passengers entering Malta is expected to reach about 700,000 this year. For Valletta Cruise Port 2017 has seen a new experience with a second ship having decided to use Malta as its hub port, that is a departure and arrival port for a cruise. An interview with the CEO of the company that manages the Grand Harbour’s cruise terminus we obtained an idea of how much the industry contributes to the national economy as well as prospects for the coming year.
Malta has firmly established itself as a destination port for cruise liners in the Mediterranean with the passenger terminus in the Grand Harbour on its 16th year of operations since being privately managed. CEO Stephen Xuereb said the company is anticipating 700,000 arrivals this year, establishing a new record.
After the experience of recent years during which a ship entered the Grand Harbour every Sunday with thousands of passengers arriving or embarking on the end or the start of their cruise, as from the current year another liner has been performing the same operation every Thursday. Xuereb said there is good collaboration with the International Airport where arriving or departing passengers are processed smoothly and satisfy the expectations of agents.
Xuereb said the hub port scheme has been well received and the Sunday call client has been operating for seven years running while the Thursday client has already confirmed Malta as home port for 2018 and 2019 – in fact both clients have confirmed for 2018 and 2019.
The CEO also confirmed the infrastructure is capable of handling more liners using Malta as their home port.
Television Malta asked Xuereb how much he calculated the whole cruises operation is financially contributing to the national economy.
He replied that in the latest analysis, Professor Gordon Cordina was commissioned to estimate the estimate of the economic impact and this reached €93 million which more or less means an expenditure of €46 by each passenger.
The CEO went on to say that estimates for 2018 are indicating it will be a year that will match the successes of the current year.
Asked about the challenges that Malta faces as a cruise port, Xuereb said that Malta is the most southern port in the Mediterranean and this impacts fuel expenses.
It is calculated that when cruise liners once more start using North African ports, such as in Tunisia, this will be of great benefit to Malta. He said that because of instability in Turkey and Israel some cruise companies no longer operated there, but if and when this changes, it should not be detrimental to Malta.
As to why he feels that if cruises recommence in these regions Malta would not suffer a downturn, Xuereb said 90 new liners have entered the market and these need to use ports and therefore Malta will remain as an attractive location.
He emphasised that companies within the cruise liner sector should keep improving their passenger services. He highlighted the infrastructure and the need for cleanliness so that the few hours which passengers spend in Malta leave them with a positive impression to encourage them to return to Malta for a longer stay.