Seatrade Europe

German cruise market sails towards three million passengers

Germans remain interested in cruise holidays.
Klaus Hildebrandt
Germans remain interested in cruise holidays.

The German cruise market is likely to reach a new record of three million passengers in the coming years despite environmental debates, according to experts at the Seatrade Europe conference in Hamburg this week.

Several new ships are coming on to the German market this year, such as the Aida Nova, Aida Mira, Mein Schiff 2, Costa Smeralda and the MSC ships Bellissima and Grandiosa. This capacity expansion is likely to put prices under pressure.

Karl J. Pojer, Germany chief of the Clia association, was confident that cruises will continue to gain in popularity. He told a panel discussion at the Seatrade Europe event: "Customers love our product and respect the quality they are offered."

The head of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises predicted that the number of German ocean cruise passengers will exceed the three million mark in 2020 or 2021. In comparison, there were about 2.2 million passengers last year.

Moreover, analysts such as Jamie Rollo (Morgan Stanley) expect pressure on prices to weaken because neither of the two dominant German cruise lines, Aida and TUI Cruises, will have a new vessel next year.

Wybcke Meier, head of TUI Cruises, said that 34% of Germans are interested in going on a cruise holiday but only 8% had actually done so to date. This showed the industry's growth potential.

Meanwhile, the overall number of ocean cruise passengers in Europe is expected to reach 7.5 million this year, according to Michael Thamm, Chairman of Clia Europe and head of the Costa Group. He stressed that the industry is investing €20 billion in new technologies, from LNG to electric motors, to improve its environmental footprint. "We take our responsibility seriously and are further than public perception reflects."

The role of cruise ships as a contributor to overtourism was another topic at the Seatrade Europe conference. Thamm said that although the number of cruise passengers only lies between 5% and 10% of the total in the most popular destinations, the industry takes concerns seriously and is working on solutions with affected destinations. He cited the agreement with Dubrovnik, under which no more than 4,000 cruise passengers will be allowed into the historic centre at any one time from 2020 onwards.

Felix Eichhorn, head of Aida Cruises, emphasised the need for individual solutions for each destination, given that many destinations wanted more visitors, not fewer. MSC chief Gianni Onorato underlined the need to develop new destinations given the increase in ship capacity in the coming years.