As Europeans, we are privileged to live on a continent with such diverse cultural heritage, many vibrant cities, and spectacular coastlines.
We are sensitive to the need to look after our homes and the places we visit, not only out of respect for the people who live there now but also for the benefit of our children and future generations.
This respect for others is the essence of travel. For people in the cruise industry, we want to be good neighbours and visitors, and we work in harmony with ports around Europe.
What's really behind Barcelona's cruise and ferry port move?
Reports of recent decisions by ports might seem to suggest otherwise. This summer, the Port of Barcelona announced that cruise and ferry operations have been moved to the Adossat wharf, away from the residential areas of the city.
And yet, one significant factor was overlooked in how this decision was framed; the supportive role played by cruise lines in the decision process.
Cruise tourism is planned years in advance. Consider that many people are already booking their cruise holiday for 2026 and beyond. This means that cruise lines and ports can map their future needs with a greater degree of certainty than many other forms of tourism.
Consequently, the decision to transfer cruise operations away from residential areas should be recognised for what it is — the culmination of years of planning and dialogue between the port and cruise lines.
As a result of the move, cruise passengers will enjoy the benefits of new, modern terminal facilities, while city residents will benefit from more than 13,600 square metres of new public spaces.
Far from restricting cruise operations, the scale of investment involved — over €270 million — confirms the importance of cruise to the port’s future operations.
The port is also investing an additional €80m to provide shoreside electricity at the Adossat wharf, eliminating emissions while ships are berthed.
Innovation and net zero cruising among top priorities
It is important to reassure port communities that have questions about what the industry is doing to reduce its environmental footprint.
Cruise lines are investing significant amounts to achieve net zero cruising by 2050. Ships launched today are among the most technologically advanced and energy-efficient in the history of our sector.
Cruise lines are pursuing new and more sustainable alternative energy sources, such as sustainable biofuels, internationally certified synthetic e-fuels such as e-methane and e-methanol, electric batteries, bio-LNG, synthetic LNG, methanol or hydrogen fuel cells, wind, and solar.
As S&D MEP Josianne Cutajar from Malta notes: “Cruise tourism fosters inter-cultural exchanges while pioneering inclusivity for holidaymakers. I trust that continuous dialogue with the industry remains essential to continue advancing the sustainable travel agenda based on authentic experiences."
"Let’s do more to make ports-of-call, especially on islands, more environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive destinations, while continuing to promote and protect their charm. Public and private investment in new green technologies and initiatives like the use of shoreside electricity will surely lead the way here,” Cutajar said.
Small in numbers, a big part of the solution
We strive to be a big part of the solution, even though we are small in numbers. In fact, given the size of our economic impact, it often surprises people to learn that cruise tourists represent a very small proportion of visitors to our European capitals.
According to a recent report “Lisbon and Cruises”, adopted almost unanimously by the Municipal Assembly of Lisbon in October and based on port data from 2014 to 2022, “cruise tourism does not contribute to the tourist overload in the city of Lisbon.”
The report states that, on the contrary, cruise tourism reduces seasonality and provides a more constant flow of tourists.
Amsterdam is another city in the news for its cruise plans. Discussions on relocating cruise operations away from urban areas have been underway between the port and city leaders for some years and will continue.
During this time, the investments made by the port and passenger terminal that will enable ships to connect to shoreside electricity infrastructure can provide reassurance that sustainable operations are a priority.
When considering priorities for future tourism management, city leaders may wish to consider this fact: of the more than 21 million visitors to Amsterdam every year, around 1% arrive by cruise ship.
Marie-Caroline Laurent is Director General, Europe at the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
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