SA Cruise News

Port Elizabeth to get cruise terminal as cruise tourism expands in South Africa

With each cruise ship port call injecting around R3-million into the local economy through port charges, re-provisioning and passenger spending, Port Elizabeth is eager to attract more cruise ships, and larger ones at that.

To this end, local officials have held discussions with Transnet to plan the development of a dedicated cruise terminal for the city.

Speaking at the second session of a series of tourism indabas being hosted by the city, economic development political head Queenie Pink said a dedicated cruise liner terminal would be built as part of the waterfront development plan by Transnet.

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Pink called for the cruise terminal to become part of Transnet’s immediate priority programmes.

“Working together and growing our tourism SMME business through support by bigger players will be central to our plans to develop and grow the cruise line industry in Nelson Mandela Bay,” she said.

Port Elizabeth receives several cruise ship calls per year, mostly from cruise ships homeporting in Cape Town and cruising roundtrip on the South African and Namibian coasts (such as AIDA, TUI, Azamara and others).

But the port will have to go through a significant facelift over the next few years to become more competitive against other global and national players, to play its part in attracting more cruise lines to cruise in South African waters.

“Developing really interesting infrastructure, like the waterfront, like the refurbishment of Bayworld and the attractions at the Baakens River Valley, will all play a part in attracting more cruise liners to stop here,” says leading tourism professional Peter Myles.

Myles added that officials would need to look closely at whether port charges and taxes were competitive with other cruise line destinations and what could be done in developing more interesting excursions in and around the city.

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Shore excursions are the key to getting more foreign currency into the local economy

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According to Akorn Destination Management’s Paul Bruning, who manages about 70% of the market share of the cruise liner business in Port Elizabeth, exciting excursions are the only way to get money back into the city and into the hands of local business.

“We spend a lot of time in the market, engaging with these cruise liners on a daily basis. The cruise liners coming to the African region are not the mega, 5,000 passenger ships. The average size is around 650-750 passengers,” he says.

“But about 47% of passengers are buying their tours locally instead of on-board, due to the markup of between 50% and 100% on the tour packages sold by the cruise lines,” he added.

This gives local tour operators a primary opportunity to offer price-competitive packages.

“But we must realise that we can’t grow bigger than the infrastructure that is available,” Bruning added. “When building a multipurpose terminal, you cannot expect its functionality to rely solely on cruise ships.”

“Let’s look at a place like Cape Town – it’s a work in progress, but their terminal has a signature restaurant, offices, a spa and a massive space where they have built a film studio,” he said. “You need to look at multiple options to generate revenue, you don’t have the cruise ships for a long time when they do come here, so you cannot just rely on them.”

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