Maritime tourism in the Mediterranean Sea. Record-breaking Valletta, Barcelona and Piraeus


By Marek Grzybowski

Piraeus was visited by approximately 1.5 million passengers. The Valletta passenger terminal in Malta handled almost 900,000. passengers. Ships moored at the passenger piers in Barcelona more than 770 times. Almost 3.5 million passengers reached the capital of Catalonia. Ports and their maritime agents, cities and regions benefited. The euro flowed in a large stream to tour operators, souvenir kiosks, and the budgets of coastal cities.

Tourist traffic on passenger ships in 2023 has already revived for good in ports in the Mediterranean Sea. Sea tourists have recovered from the Covid panic. This is reflected in the statistics of important Mediterranean ports. The number of tourists has increased dramatically on the cruises of leading Mediterranean operators.
According to the latest data announced in January, Piraeus set a new record for the number of cruise ship passengers. The next record is to be set in 2024, announces the Piraeus Port Authority.
According to current data, the main Greek port recorded a historically high level in the 2023 season in the total number of passengers who reached Greece on cruise ships. Approximately 1.5 million passengers were served in Piraeus’ passenger terminals in 2023. There were about 880,000 of them. In 2022, in 2023, 760 cruises were moored at the Piraeus terminals.


Course to Malta
The management of Valletta Cruise Port recently announced that it will achieve exceptional annual results for 2023. At a recent press conference, it was reported that the terminal has handled almost 900,000. passengers. This represents an increase of over 65% compared to 2022. This brings us closer to the record results recorded in 2019.
It was further highlighted that the cruise sector in Malta contributed €85 million to the Maltese economy, of which €32 million came from cruise passenger spending and the remaining €53 million from cruise line spending. The outlook for the cruise industry in 2024 is also estimated to be positive. Notified ship arrivals allow us to estimate that over 900,000 people will arrive in the capital of Malta again. sea tourists.
Valletta Cruise Port CEO and Global Ports Holding COO Stephen Xuereb emphasized that Malta’s central location in the Mediterranean means that Malta is visited by ships heading to both the Western and Eastern Mediterranean regions. According to him, Valletta is an ideal location on Mediterranean cruise ship routes.
– The [maritime cruise tourism – MG] industry has a significant impact on the Maltese Islands in economic terms – emphasizes director Stephen Xuereb.
The maritime tourism business package in Malta consists of ship services and passenger services. The exchange of crews and passengers includes flights to and from Malta. They have an important business dimension. The airlines and the airport benefit.
– Passengers also have the opportunity to spend a few days in our country before or after the cruise – emphasizes the General Director of Valletta Cruise Port and states: “It is worth noting that the industry has not only achieved full normality after the pandemic, but is developing with over 50 completely new ships in the portfolio bookings of port berths by several cruise lines in 2028
– 11 new connections will enter the market in 2024. Locally, the prospects for 2024 are extremely positive and we believe that we will easily exceed the 900,000 mark. passengers – summed up Xuereb.

Record-breaking Piraeus
– In Piraeus, the number of passengers increased by 85% in the period only from January to August 2023 compared to last year, the Piraeus Port Authority (ΟΛΠ Α.Ε.) announced in January. It is one of the main destination ports for cruise operators in the Mediterranean Sea. Cruise passenger traffic was 928,357 from January to August. In 2022, there were 500,905 passengers at the same time.
President of the Port of Piraeus Authority, Yu Zenggang, expressed satisfaction with the excellent cruise ship rate in the port of Piraeus and mentioned that “the key goal of ΟΛΠ Α.Ε. “is to maintain the upward trend in the cruise industry, as it is an activity that brings benefits to many different entities, and above all, the local community, local authorities, on the Attica Peninsula, but also to the entire country.”
As many as 78% of ships and 55% of passengers use Piraeus as their home port, where ships are supplied and crews and passengers are exchanged. In the period from January to August, 478 cruise ships arrived compared to 419 in 2022. In all of 2023, Pierus handled 760 cruise ships. for 525 cruises Piraeus was the home port.
The Piraeus Port Authority is optimistic about 2024. Data regarding reservations for entries by passenger ship operators show that preliminary reservations have been made for 1,042 entries. There is also a record notification in which Piraeus was selected as the home port. In January this year approximately 800 ships have been registered for the 2024 season.

Barcelona forgets about Covid
Barcelona welcomed more than 770 passenger ships annually in 2022 and 2023. In 2022, cruise operators managed to persuade over 2.33 million passengers to go on sea cruises. In 2023, approximately 3.5 million sea tourists arrived in Barcelona on ships.
Better times were expected for the passenger port in 2022. Then, maritime tourism traffic continued to improve after downtime caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 2.3 million cruise passengers were still much less than 3.1 million sea tourists in 2019. As you can see, 2023 was much better than before the pandemic.
Mediterranean ports and cruise operators took the wind, and with them local tourism organizations and communities. We will not break the records from southern Europe in our ports. However, it should be emphasized that many people, companies and organizations work for the success of ports and regions.
There is someone to learn from and to model. There are still many challenges and work ahead of the marketing of Pomeranian tourist organizations. It is not ports that develop maritime tourism, but tour operators and the administrations of regions and cities.
Authorities of port cities in the Mediterranean Sea, among others, constantly put a lot of effort into promoting the regions. Valletta, Barcelona and Piraeus and many tourism organizations operating in these cities, regions and countries promote the regions. Let’s emphasize. Therefore, approximately 900 thousand passengers left in Malta in one year alone around EUR 32 million, and ship operators around EUR 53 million.