By The Coast Newspaper Reporter
Cruise Tourism is growing at a very impressive rate compared to other sectors in the tourism industry.
Chairman of the Cruise Indian Ocean Association Catherine Mturi-Wairi said the cruise industry recorded 24 million passengers in 2016, making a dramatic increase from 15 million 10 years earlier.
Making her opening remarks at a Cruise Tourism workshop in Seychelles on Tuesday, Catherine said there is a need for Port Authorities and major stakeholders to collaborate with partners, grow the industry by offering unique experiences.
The Chairperson also stressed the need to embrace an integrated approach to the marketing and promotion of cruise tourism in Africa.
Catherine who is also the Kenya Ports Authority Managing Director challenged member states to take advantage of the enormous potential that exists in the region which is characterized by a great diversity of natural wonders on land and sea coupled with competitive ports and tourism bodies to support the cruise tourism industry.
“Considering that the Cruise sector is still in the growth stage of the industry life cycle, the region stands to gain immensely from its opportunity. The region represents an important niche for cruise development. The popularity of the safari/cruise package available in the region is growing rapidly” The KPA boss added.
Cruise Indian Ocean Association was founded under the auspices of Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa (PMAESA), one of the regional bodies set up by the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa.
The idea of considering the cruise sector in the development of port infrastructure and growing the regional economies through tourism was born under this co-operation.
A standing committee on cruise tourism was formed with the specific objective of projecting a united image and working together in promoting destinations and establishing an Indian Ocean Cruise Association similar to the ones that exist in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Europe.
Plans were later made to form a Cruise Association with the objective of collectively promoting the region as an attractive cruise destination and also to harmonize reception procedures.
The Association was officially launched in Mombasa on 18th November 2000.
This is the second time the Seychelles Ports Authority to host such forum to deliberate on Cruise tourism in the region.
Catherine said saturation of the traditional cruise circuits of North America, the Caribbean, Northwest Europe, the Far East and Australia, have offered an opportunity for new destinations.
“The trend to build modern, larger and faster vessels with quality onboard services, has made cruising more appealing to holiday makers. Africa, specifically Eastern and Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands provide an excellent option to the traditional cruise circuits” she said
The Association Chairperson is optimistic and confident that the deliberations will enable the association to chart an appropriate and practical way forward with a view to fully exploiting the region’s cruise potential.
According to the constitution the key objectives of the association are:
To jointly promote and market the Eastern and Southern Africa region and South West Indian Ocean Islands.
To perform liaison functions between members and cruise line stake-holders in the industry.
To undertake research, develop and maintain a statistical database on port networks and all other information pertaining to cruise tourism worldwide.
The association is also mandated to provide a forum for a unified and integrated approach to cruise tourism.
The one day forum was also attended by the Seychelles Ports Authority Chief Executive Col. Andre Ciseau.