The world's tourism industry continues to recover after nearly two years of pandemic-induced downtime, and the number of cruise ship passengers worldwide is expected to surpass 30 million this year, adding another 66 new cruise ships to the global cruise ship fleet by 2028.
The number of cruise passengers travelling in Europe demonstrates an upward trend and is expected to reach 80% of 2019 indices this year. Industry experts pay special attention to northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region, which is currently in a tricky situation due to the war and exclusion of St. Petersburg from cruise routes. As it is well known, St. Petersburg has been one of the most demanded and most frequently purchased destinations of the Baltic Sea cruise routes. This season, due to safety concerns, as well as uncertainty due to geopolitical developments and falling demand, several cruise lines, especially those operating in the US market, have decided to reschedule their itineraries by temporarily suspending cruise routes in the Baltic Sea, especially in its East Coast ports, so a reduction in cruise vessel calls is expected.
“Despite the overall picture in the region, we have done a lot with the aim of making Riga look good in the cruise segment this year, especially compared to neighboring ports. This season, 22 ships of different cruise lines will call Riga, including two completely new cruise ship lines “Ambassador Cruise Line” from Great Britain and “Vantage Travel” from the USA. We are expecting six cruise liners that have not called Riga before. After a break of several years, the cruise explorer segment, related to the tourism industry, with its flagship “National Geographic Explorer” will return to our port. Furthermore, in the next three years several calls of luxury cruise liners that we would not have seen before could also be expected in the port of Riga,” said Ansis Zeltiņš, the Freeport of Riga CEO, adding that this year cruise ship calls are expected in the Port of Riga during the winter season as well.
Last week, the Freeport of Riga Authority, together with cooperation partners Riga RoPax Terminal, Riga Cruiseship Agency and Riga Passenger Port, participated in the world's largest cruise industry forum Seatrade Cruise Global, which took place in Fort Lauderdale, USA. This is the most significant industry event where cruise companies, ship agents, port and tourism industry professionals from more than 100 countries meet annually to outline the cruise routes of the coming seasons and establish new long-term business contacts.
“In the framework of our meetings with such world-class cruise companies as “Princess Cruises”, “TUI Cruises”, “Azamara”, “MSC Cruises”, “Silversea Cruises”, “ Virgin Voyage”, “Costa”, “AIDA”, “Royal Caribbean Cruises”, “Holland America”, “Ponant”, “Windstar Cruises”, “Fred Olsen”, “The World Residences at Sea”, “Disney Cruise Line” and other ones, we heard good reviews about Riga, people are interested – and that enhances our capacity to promote further development of the cruise segment. As a success of this year's Seatrade Cruise Global, we should definitely mention the ongoing negotiations with a number of exclusive niche cruise lines that offer their passengers around-the-world cruises which last a few years, and who are currently ready to include Riga into their 2025 and 2026 world cruise tour routes,” commented A.Zeltiņš.
According to the industry trends, there is a growing demand in the global cruise segment for a unique, more personalized experience at cruise stops instead of traditional tours. “There is a growing interest in an authentic onshore experience, the opportunity to meet and communicate with local residents, to get to know local traditions, culture and anything interesting that we can offer, in other words, a tailor-made tourism offer”, said Jānis Vilciņš, cruise ship service manager of Riga Cruiseship Agency, the company which during the active cruise ship season provides work for more than 200 different types of suppliers: guides, transport companies, museums, restaurants, and other tourism service providers.
“Riga and the region provide a good, competitive offer, but our neighbors are also good. At a time when the global industry, which accumulates no less than 30 billion dollars annually, is actively looking for new routes, including an alternative to St. Petersburg, and is ready to spend much more on destinations, it would be especially important that all of us, including the city and national tourism organizations, are currently doing our homework to attract new cruise companies and offer as diverse and unique tourism experience as possible,” added the Freeport of Riga CEO, emphasizing that the cruise ship industry is a wealthy industry where dedicated work may result in financial gain for everyone – the city, the tourism and service sector and the country as a whole.