Mediterranean Sea. Tourism from Cabo Verde, to Malta, Venice and Istanbul

By Marek Grzybowski

The Mediterranean Sea and the eastern Atlantic and adjacent seas are extremely attractive to tourists taking advantage of cruises. It is the second largest cruise market in the world, with a 21.5% market share and a destination for over 7 million passengers annually.
The ports of the Mediterranean Sea and surrounding regions have for years been an attractive destination for tourists who like to “stop” for a moment, take a quick trip by sightseeing bus to attractive places and spend time in numerous entertainment places on the ship. There are also tourists returning to ports and discovering new places in coastal cities, or returning to known places, alleys and cafes.
During Seatrade Cruise Global, Figen Ayan, President of MedCruise, presented the latest statistics that confirmed that the Mediterranean Sea is the second largest cruise market in the world.

From the Atlantic to the Adriatic and the Black Sea
MedCruise is an organization founded in Rome on June 11, 1996 by a cooperation agreement between 16 ports in seven different countries. Currently, MedCruise brings together 22 countries located on three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe. MedCruise today provides cooperation in the maritime tourism business to over 150 ports and 53 associate members.
The associate member group represents tourist boards, ship agents, port agents, as well as other organizations related to the cruise industry. This is a group that both benefits from being part of the MedCruise organization and at the same time brings significant marketing impulses.
The MedCruise region has returned to pre-pandemic levels, recording a 6.59% increase in the number of passenger connections in 2023 and a 7.91% increase in the number of cruises compared to 2019. All major cruise operators maintain connections in the Mediterranean. Even the pandemic shock did not cause people to withdraw from this attractive market.
In 2023, a survey of port activity in environmental protection activities was carried out in the region. 51 Mediterranean ports took part. MedCruise’s ports are extremely active in the development and implementation of environmental monitoring programs and the supply of electricity to passenger ships from the quay. Virtually all ports are advanced in maintaining CSR standards. The terminals of many of them are prepared to deliver alternative fuels.

Environmental protection is a priority
Port authorities operating in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic regions implement environmental and biodiversity protection programs. Their boards are active in sustainable development, focusing on protecting and maintaining the integrity of local ecosystems. This is not only about reconciling port development and environmental protection, but also developing positive relationships between communities and ports.
Valeria Mangiarotti, director of technical environmental solutions, and Jamil Ouazzani, director of ecosystems, sustainable development, wildlife and biodiversity, spoke about the achievements of ports operating in the MedCruise association in the field of sustainable development during Seatrade Cruise Global 2024.
About 29% of Mediterranean ports currently provide electricity to ships using OPS devices. Cruise ship owners can count on rapid progress in this area, as as many as 94% of passenger terminal operators report that they are planning and carrying out preparatory work to launch this service. All port representatives expressed their readiness to offer OPS before 2030. Currently, 27% of ports accepting cruises provide LNG bunkering and refueling, and 81% intend to provide this service by 2030.
It is noteworthy that 88% of surveyed ports have implemented environmental monitoring programs, 92% actively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and 57% conduct monitoring initiatives aimed at protecting biodiversity on land and at sea, Mangiarotti and Ouazzani enumerated in their presentation.

Over 33 million passengers
In 2023, almost 33.2 million tourists boarded cruise ships. This result exceeded pre-pandemic results. Last year ship operators and tourist services in ports felt a clear revival of the cruise business in their pockets. Throughout the region, we saw an increase of 36.2% compared to 2022.
Ports, regional tourism boards and cruise operators have been doing everything they can to bounce back from the pandemic. The management boards of Mediterranean ports, tour operators and the administrations of coastal cities have made comprehensive efforts to increase resilience to various crises. Thanks to this, it was possible to significantly increase the reception of ships and tourists.
The total number of cruise ship calls at MedCruise ports in 2023 was 14,672, remaining almost constant compared to 2022. The slight decline of 0.56% in arrivals reflects the fact that cruise cabin occupancy is increasing . Real increases in sea tourists were recorded despite the seasonality of this business.