Cruise Industry

How Africa is looking to invest in boosting cruise tourism after the pandemic

With Africa having borne the brunt of the economic crisis that came with the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns put in place to protect public health, many up-and-coming cruise destinations on the continent are now looking to the resurgent cruise industry for post-pandemic growth.

P&O Aurora (image for illustrative purposes only).

The COVID-19 pandemic struck globally in March, 2020, leading to cascading lockdowns around the world as more and more countries began to experience surging cases of the virus. Even though most African countries lack the socio-economic infrastructure to sustain such lockdowns, these measures found their way to the continent nonetheless.

By June of 2021, Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was warning of an economic calamity for the continent. She warned that the pandemic had become a “two-track pandemic…leading to a two-track recovery”. As a result, “Africa is already falling behind in terms of growth prospects. It is a human tragedy and an economic calamity.”

The World Bank has forecast that economic growth in the region is expected to decelerate from 4.1% in 2021 to 3.3% in 2022 compared to advanced economies that are expected to revert to the pre-pandemic growth trend in 2022. As if the pandemic wasn’t enough, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also created a double-digit inflation rate in 17 countries, skyrocketing commodity prices, food insecurity, and supply chain constraints.

The cruise industry is forecast to fully recover from the pandemic this year.

Yet there is good news amid all the doom and gloom, one of the bright spots has been the cruise industry, which has seen a stunning return to form following the lifting of lockdowns and international travel restrictions. The major cruise lines have all brought most of their fleets back into service, major cruise destinations have reopened around the world and demand has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.

There has also been marked growth in interest in Africa as a cruise destination, according to Harry Sommer, CEO & President, Norwegian Cruise Line, who recently said the cruise line’s upcoming 2023/24 South African itineraries are already among the fastest selling, with demand coming from more than 60 countries. This year is also anticipated to be the year that the industry makes a complete recovery.

Nautica alongside in Mombasa

As a result, African cruise destinations are looking to capitalise by diversifying their tourism offerings away from safari tourism and into cruise tourism. Kenya and the Seychelles in particular are investing in cruise infrastructure in an effort to grow their cruise sectors and grab some of the US $15.1 billion that the industry is expected to be worth by 2028.

Kenya has built a new cruise terminal on the island of Mombasa. It opened to its first cruise ships in January this year and three more are expected by the end of March. Peninah Malonza, the country’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, said visitors arriving on the second ship in December would inject more than $800,000 into the local economy.

“Cruise tourists form a crucial part of the tourism industry,” said John Ololtuaa, the principal secretary in the country’s tourism department. “Cruise tourism is a high-value market worth billions of dollars.”

The Seychelles, more than 1,000 miles to the east in the Indian Ocean, is also seeing a tourism benefit from the cruise industry. Port Victoria, its only notable port, is scheduled to receive 18 cruise ships during the current season. The Seychelles Port Authority opened a passageway to the port entrance in time for the season that the agency believes will provides visitors to Victoria a safer exit and entry point. Sony Payet, the authority’s chief executive, acknowledged that prior to the opening of the passageway, passengers had to exit the main gate of Port Victoria, where they often encountered heavy trucks.

Cape Town has redeveloped its cruise terminal

South Africa is the most advanced cruise market on the continent, with Cape Town scheduled to accommodate 75 cruise calls from several dozen cruise ships during the year. The cruise sector brings in around $16.4 million to the local economy annually, with some 250,000 cruise tourists having visited during the current cruise season.

“It is essential to have adequate infrastructure in place to support the arrival and departure of large cruise ships, including a deep-water port and terminal facilities,” says Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Wesgro, Cape Town’s official tourism promotion agency. The city has upgraded its cruise infrastructure significantly in recent years, with the redevelopment of the Cape Town Cruise Terminal directly adjacent the V&A Waterfront, a sprawling retail and entertainment area around a marina.

The V&A Waterfront

The redevelopment of the terminal was intended to attract more cruise lines to not only cruise from the city, but also to get more cruise lines to homeport during the annual cruise season between November and March. It worked on both counts, with MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Azamara, Regent Seven Seas, and AIDA all having sailed a homeporting season in Cape Town this year.

Durban Cruise Terminal

On the other side of the country, in Durban, MSC Cruises has also partnered with a local development company in a joint venture to build the Durban Cruise Terminal, or KZN Cruise Terminal, where MSC Cruises homeports annually for the summer season, sailing roundtrip voyages up the South African coast to Mozambique. The cruise terminal was opened in November 2021 and features retail space and facilities for conferences and meetings.

Leave a Reply