The rapidly rebounding cruise tourism market is providing African tourism with a lucrative opportunity to give destinations battered by the pandemic a new path to revenues.
African destinations have taken major steps in recent years to move away from a heavy emphasis on safari tourism, and several of them are focusing on a cruise tourism industry poised to make a complete recovery by the end of 2023.
Countries around the continent are increasing their investments in a sector that they believe they will give their economies a boost, with cruise tourism expected to be worth $15.1 billion worldwide by 2028.
One of them is Kenya, where a new cruise terminal in Mombasa welcomed in late January its third ship in a two-month period. Peninah Malonza, the country’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, said visitors arriving on the second ship in December would inject more than $800,000 into the local economy. And Kenyan authorities expect three more cruise ships to dock at the terminal, which features duty-free shops and restaurants, by the end of March.
“Cruise tourists form a crucial part of the tourism industry,” said John Ololtuaa, the principal secretary in the country’s tourism department. “Cruise tourism is a high-value market worth billions of dollars.”
Another African destination making a significant investment in its cruising infrastructure is Seychelles, which projects 18 ships to dock at Victoria — its only notable port — and other islands on the archipelago during the current cruising season. The Seychelles Port Authority opened a passageway for in time for the season that the agency believes will provides visitors to Victoria a safer exit and entry point. Sony Payet, the authority’s chief executive, acknowledged that prior to the opening of the passageway, passengers had to exit the main gate of Port Victoria, where they often encountered heavy trucks.
Kenya and the Seychelles will be looking to emulate the success South Africa — especially Cape Town — has had in cruise tourism. Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Wesgro, Cape Town’s official tourism promotion agency, estimates that the sector generates roughly $16.4 million for the local economy. The current cruise season, which ends in May, is expected to see close to 250,000 travelers pass through its terminal.
“It is essential to have adequate infrastructure in place to support the arrival and departure of large cruise ships, including a deep-water port and terminal facilities,” Stander said, citing the cruise terminal that was named Africa’s best in 2022. The city expects 75 ships to dock before the end of the season.
Cape Town isn’t the only South African port that has ramped up its cruise presence in recent years. Durban opened a new terminal in November 2021 that features retail space and facilities for conferences and meetings.
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Photo credit: Queen Mary 2 leaving Cape Town. Cruise tourism has injected millions of dollars into the local economy. Ian Barbour / Flickr