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Once again, the cruise industry demonstrates its resilience in the face of the new international environment

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The twelfth edition of the International Cruise Summit in Madrid has concluded with cruise lines confident of an extraordinary 2023 despite the international situation of rising costs and staff shortages.

MADRID - The 12th edition of the International Cruise Summit, held on 15-16 November in Madrid, put the spotlight on the global issues of rising costs and labour shortages that are affecting the cruise industry as well as most other economic activities.

The inauguration of ICS 2022 was opened by Marie-Caroline Laurent, Director General in CLIA Europe, Luis Fernando Martín Izquierdo, Director General of Tourism of Madrid and Álvaro Rodríguez Dapena, President of Puertos del Estado and was attended by leading managers and executives from cruise lines, ports, shipping agents and other companies in the sector from all over the world.

The cruise industry has recovered its activity strongly in 2022, although occupancy levels have not yet reached their peak. In the last 3 years, new high-capacity ships with the latest environmentally friendly technologies have been added. In addition, older, smaller and inefficient ships have been scrapped and consequently new places have been gained.

Despite the fact that occupancy levels are not yet fully recovered and that more places are now available, cruise lines are committed to not lowering prices, which would devalue a product that offers exceptional value for money. Plus the fact that cruisers are also facing a rise in operating costs and fuel costs never seen before.

Combating the myths that damage the reputation of cruise ships is a short to medium term goal, by highlighting not only their health safety, but also through the commitment to reducing environmental impact, and their economic value to destinations, where each cruiser spends $750 in a week of cruising.

The lack of flights or their low frequency on certain routes is still being experienced and more ports of embarkation are being chosen, as well as passenger transport by train or even bus.

The shortage phenomenon is occurring in several areas of the supply chain: from shortages of buses, drivers and tour guides for excursions, to difficulty in finding staff willing to work on board and in port operations. However, the industry expects normality to return as economic activity continues to grow.

Andrea Zito, CEO of the cultural expedition cruise line, Swan Hellenic, was the personality interviewed this year by Virginia Lopez Valiente, CEO of CruisesNews Media Group, organiser of the event. Zito highlighted the environmental education value of his cruises in Antarctica, the Arctic, which have also made a lasting impact on him personally.

Sustainability, a real mantra of the cruise companies, which are building ships with the latest technologies in emissions reduction, water purification, single-use plastic reduction programmes, paper, and separation for recycling, has extended its influence far beyond the ships, into the companies' own offices, and also to the destinations, where a holistic approach is sought that considers not only good environmental practices at the port level but also in the entire value chain of the destination: tour operators, transport, and places to visit or activity companies.

The companies are also investing in research into new energy sources, such as hydrogen, ammonia or methanol, with prototypes designed to come on stream in the next few years.

As part of its own sustainability programme, CruisesNews Media Group, organiser of the event, donated signage stands and surplus material to be reused for an NGO's activities in developing countries.

Other highlights:
- The industry is formalising agreements with selected countries, such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, to train crew members to work on Caribbean cruise ships.
- Janet Bava of Amawaterways outlined how river cruising has found a new model for longer trips that are in high demand among consumers. The company is successfully selling 48-night river cruises on all the major rivers in Europe.
- Finally, although 34% of cruise travellers are Generation C and millennials, communication about the value of cruises must continue to improve in order to increase this percentage.

The dates for ICS 2023 have been announced. It will be held on 14 and 15 November at the Hotel Meliá Castilla in Madrid.

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