We all have friends who have done it, or friends of friends who have done it: working on the cruise ships. Applying, being interviewed, being accepted, flying off to some exotic location only to be picked up and shipped around to numerous other exotic locations.
The cruise ships visit the Bahamas, Canada, Sweden, America, and Australia. There’s almost no place on earth where the cruise ships don’t dock. And now it looks like South Africa will be cashing in on the cruise tourism industry.
If South Africa wants to capitalise on the global cruise industry, that is estimated to grow to more than 28 million passengers by 2025 (from the current 15.4 million), it’ll have to improve its port facilities.
A recent report indicates there could be a significant return on public sector funding. But that’s only if as many or more international tourists as with locals view South Africa as a prime cruise destination. And why shouldn’t they?
South Africa is already a popular tourist destination with its long, white-sand beaches, warm Indian Ocean and wildlife and bush experiences. The country’s rich and colourful mixture of cultures has always attracted tourists from around the globe. With a range of fast-paced and eclectic lifestyles scattered throughout the country, visitors have enjoyed the “real African” experience they get here for years.
So it should be a given that foreigners want to come here by cruise ship, come on: who wouldn’t? It seems its dependant on our infrastructure. Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, recently said, “We need investment in port facilities. We want to be part of this industry as tourists, working on board and as operators.”
The report on the prospects, benefits and strategies for the industry was released recently and says that the return on public sector funding would be an estimated R14.81 for every R1 spent in terms of a medium passenger forecast of more than 400 000 by the year 2025. For low and high passenger forecasts the returns would probably be around R11.49 and R48.83 respectively. The report also says that if the passenger numbers envisaged do not materialise, the project would not be viable from a South African perspective.
The funding would go towards new passenger terminals at ports and marketing South Africa to cruise liners. The chairman of the national cruise steering committee, Mansoor Mohamed, said that coastal cities should investigate creating multi-purpose cruise liner facilities as a long-term investment. He also emphasised that the immediate need to improve cruise visitor reception must not be ignored.
Tourists embarking on cruise liners at the Durban port currently use an area that is frequented by cargo trucks. Mohamed commented that incentives to encourage more South African flagged vessels must be considered.
The chief executive of Transnet National Port Authority (NPA), Kgomotso Phihlela, said R5 million has been approved for a feasibility study to assess the viability of a passenger terminal at Durban’s port. Hopefully a concept will be finalised by the end of next year. Phihlela estimated that the project would not cost less than R500 million and that the terminal could be operational by 2014. Some people believe that this is not enough – they want the port to be operational sooner.
Internationally the cruise industry has expanded from 1.4 million passengers in 1980 to around 15 million currently. It is expected to grow to between 23.1 million and 28.1 million by 2025, so it’s not surprising that officials want South African ports to be put on the cruise ship map, as it is now one of the fastest-growing sectors in tourism.