The Italian company, Costa Cruises is reducing the number of passengers it brings to the Gulf this season because of regional unrest. Costa is one of the biggest operators of cruises in the region, has made the decision to scrap plans to base two ships in Dubai for the winter cruising season from the end of 2011 through to April and will sail one larger cruise ship.
There is expected to be a slight reduction in passenger numbers. The company had cancelled Bahrain however the move was not enough and the compant took the decision in May to divert one of the ships and move it to the Caribbean. There is a perception by travelller to associate the Mediterranean and North Africa with the Middle East which has contributed to lower bookings.
Costa removed Bahrain from its itinerary for its regional cruises earlier this year because of protests in the country. Last season, the company had the 2,826-passenger Costa Deliziosa and 2,260-capacity Costa Luminosa sailing out of Dubai. This year, it will operate only the 3,800-passenger Costa Favolosa out of Dubai.
Destinations that manage to attract cruise ships to adopt them as home ports enjoy significant economic benefits because passengers who fly in often spend days before or after the cruise in those places.
Other economic benefits for the destinations include crew expenditure, port fees and fuel. Regions close by are likely to be also visited also benefit substantially. It is estimated that a 2,000-passenger ship brings an average revenue of about Dh1 million (US$272,000) to each port of call, according to Seatrade, a shipping communications company.
Mr Onorato said booking trends for cruises were also being negatively impacted by “the overall economic situation”, so the company had not yet decided whether it would add more cruises to the region next year.
The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing is still forecasting an overall increase in the number of cruise passengers coming to Dubai because MSC Cruises is launching its first sailings out of Abu Dhabi at the end of this month. The department is looking to develop the other destinations in the region as it can be a very appealing destination, especially for winter cruising.