A cruise ship carrying about 2 000 passengers results in spending to the value of approximately R2m per day at a destination, says Alderman James Vos, Cape Town's Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management.
The projected value of the cruise tourism industry between 2017 and 2027 is estimated to be in the region of R220bn, according to Cape Town Tourism.
That is why the City of Cape Town is actively working to promote the Mother City as the top cruise destination on the continent. SA's peak cruise season is from October to April and offers international cruise companies an alternative during the cold winter season in the Northern Hemisphere.
According to Vos, the cruise tourism industry has shown significant year-on-year growth and makes a substantial contribution not only to Cape Town's economy but to the SA economy at large.
The first ship Cape Town welcomed recently for the start of the 2019/2010 cruise season was the MS Queen Elizabeth, which carries 2 068 passengers and 996 crew members.
It is estimated that the average tourist spends between R501 and R1 000 daily (excluding accommodation). The average spend by an international tourist per trip is R8 400 while in Cape Town, and R10 600 prepaid spend before a traveller arrives in SA.
"We are working with our tourism partners and the V&A Waterfront to promote the city as a destination of choice globally for cruise tourism," said Vos.
"We have witnessed a steady increase in cruise passenger arrivals, from 47 145 during the 2017-2018 cruise season, to 52 580 during 2018-2019."
This season alone, 30 vessels are expected to make 49 stop-overs in Cape Town. Meanwhile, 32 vessels and 67 stop-overs have already been confirmed for the 2020-2021 cruise season.
Furthermore, in the view of Vos, the increased air connectivity to Cape Town, thanks to the efforts of the Air Access initiative, increased the opportunities for cruise passengers to either join or disembark in the Mother City.
Cape Town outlook
He said the dedicated cruise terminal, funded by the V&A Waterfront, helped tap cruise tourism opportunities even more. The V&A Waterfront invested R59m in the redevelopment of the Cruise Terminal in 2015.
Since then customs officials at the Cruise Terminal processed 266 149 passengers. This number includes crew who effectively become tourists when they arrive in Cape Town.
Although a dip was recorded in the 2016 and 2017 seasons as a result of the drought, by the close of the 2018-2019 season passenger numbers increased by 19% to 66 601.
Until the end of the new season in April 2020, ships from 11 cruise liner companies will dock at the Cruise Terminal's E berth. It is estimated that the Cruise Terminal will welcome roughly 100 000 passengers and 30 000 crew.
Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, the biggest cruise liner in the world at 365m, will return to Cape Town on March 31, 2020.
According to Andre Blaine, the V&A Waterfront's executive manager marine and industrial, Cape Town is fast becoming known as the "turn-around" port for both inbound and outbound international arrivals and departures.
"Our objective is to become the number one port in Southern Africa for cruise liner business," he said.
In October, MSC Cruises, which operates cruises in South Africa, Europe, South America and the Gulf – announced that it would be bringing two bigger ships to South Africa's shores for the 2020/2021 cruise season.
From December 2020 to March 2021 MSC Opera, which will be home ported in Cape Town, will join MSC Musica, homeported in Durban. MSC Opera can host approximately 2 500 guests, while MSC Musica can cater for approximately 3 200 guests.
For the 2019/2020 SA cruise season, MSC Orchestra, on her maiden voyage to South Africa, will offer cruises until April 2020.
MSC Cruises has invested in infrastructure development in Mozambique – a popular cruising destination for South Africans – and continues to collaborate with the Namibian government, as Walvis Bay is one of the ports to which MSC Cruises sails.
New terminal for Durban
Furthermore, the company has invested over R200m in the planned construction of a new Durban Cruise Terminal as part of the KwaZulu Cruise Terminal Consortium (KTC). The company hopes it will be operational by January 2021.
One aspect of SA cruise tourism is so-called "cruises to nowhere". These are cruises without a destination trade port call, according to a book series by global publishing company Springer called Geographies of Tourism and Global Change.
According to Ross Volk, MD for MSC Cruises South Africa, cruises are increasingly becoming an appealing holiday choice for South Africans as they offer an all-inclusive vacation. The diversity of the offering also appeals to tourists and caters for people of all ages.