Cruise Indian Ocean Association launches in Durban

May 13, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

With little fanfare or advance publicity the Cruise Indian Ocean Association (CIOA) was launched in Durban on Sunday (10 May) with the aims and intention of promoting and marketing East and South Africa and the Indian Ocean islands as the next big cruise ship destination.

Approximately 60 invited people attended the launch at the Durban Hilton Hotel, placed next door to the International Convention Centre where the 2009 Tourism Indaba, Africa’ s largest tourist get-together, was being hosted. Among those at the launch and subsequent workshop were delegates from the ports of Mombasa and Durban, as well as various representatives from Kenya, Mozambique and Madagascar and a number of tourism bodies.

CIOA intends targeting the top ten cruise ship operators in a determined effort to market and sell East and southern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands as a future cruise destination. The association will place particular emphasis on the possibility of staging more ships in the region during various times of the year.

Among the strategies likely to unfold from this development is a regional forum workshop to which representatives of major cruise companies will be invited. Similar forums have been held with considerable success in other regions of the world, including in South East Asia, Japan, South America and the UK. Based on their success it is believed that by bringing key executives of the cruise ship companies to this region and exposing them to what is on offer, the chances of staging or routing a ship or ships along the African coastline will be greatly enhanced.

With a considerable number of new and mostly very large cruise ships due to enter the market in the next 12 to 24 months, an increasing number of medium size ships will be cascaded down and new market areas are already in need.

Currently Starlight Cruises, a Johannesburg-based company in association with MSC Cruises stages one or sometimes two cruise ships in Durban during the summer months – in the immediate past season two of these ships, MELODY and RHAPSODY operated from Durban and Cape Town between November 2008 and April 2009. In November this year another of their ships, the 2,000-passenger SINFONIA will arrive in South Africa to operate summer cruises from Durban to the Mozambique coast and islands.

Several other cruise companies, including Hebridean Cruises positioned ships in southern Africa for an extended season during the recent southern summer while a number of the German cruise companies operated multiple cruises out of South Africa making use of fly-cruise operations for their predominantly European passengers.

In addition a number of other ships paid fleeting visits, either on World Cruises or undertaking Round Africa-type cruises or on re-positioning type visits.

These developments indicate an increase in traditional cruise ship visits already taking place and CIOA hopes to build on this and take things to a higher level. Internationally some 13 million people went cruising during 2008, and while the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and places like Alaska remain favourites, mainly because of their accessibility for American passengers who make up the vast majority of cruise ship clientele, operators are keen to find new unexplored destinations to cater for this growing appetite.

In this it is believed the African continent has much to offer, including shore visits to big game parks and exotic wildlife, magnificent scenery including spectacular mountain ranges, tropical islands both uninhabited and occupied, good weather most of the year round, great port cities to visit and new cultures and histories to explore. Not the least of these is Kenya and the ‘Obama’ phenomena but there are also unusual attractions like the slave markets on the Spice islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and of course on Madagascar – theme cruises like this form a growing appeal among passengers searching for a bit of their own personal history and heritage.

Added to this is, the East and southern African coast and Indian Ocean islands, the magical Sea of Zanj, is ideally placed for the emerging cruise markets of India and South East Asia and the Far East.

The economic value of enticing cruise operators to send more ships to Africa can be measured against figures issued by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise association. According to CLIA, a passenger ship carrying 2,000 passengers and 950 crew generates an average of US $ 322,705 (R2.7 million) spending per call in a home-port, while a similar ship making port of call visits generates $ 275,000 (R2.3million) in onshore spending.

The value of having such ships and passengers doesn’t end with these numbers. Research shows that between 50 and 70 percent of passengers say they would like to return for land-based holidays after visiting a new country for the first time.

At Sunday’s launch it was also revealed that two large Holland America cruise ships will be brought to South Africa as floating hotels for the 2010 World Soccer Cup. The WESTERDAM and the NOORDAM, both modern 2,000-passenger Vista-class ships will operate between Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town for the duration of the competition.


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