And why the cruising sector must respond to criticism.
René Kouwenberg, director of the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, gave the keynote speech during the latest edition of the renowned Amsterdam Breakfast at the annual Seatrade Cruise Global exhibition in Fort Lauderdale (he replaced ACP chair Janine van Oosten). Organised by Amsterdam Cruise Port (ACP) and Port of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Breakfast was again very well-attended this year.
According to Kouwenberg, the main takeaway from Seatrade Cruise Global 2018 was the good news that cruise tourism has the wind in its sails. At the same time, the growth in the number of cruise tourists, the discussions about sustainability and the demand for returns for the local municipalities and their residents require attention and action from the various partners who bring vessels and tourists to our cities.
Kouwenberg advised that the cruise sector had to think ahead in order to avoid being associated with mass tourism and the nuisance that goes with it. “The sector has to show apprehensive residents that cruise tourists are often middle-aged, curious, have money to spend and are have no negative impact on the local quality of life. While we understand that a cruise vessel with 2000 passengers is very visible so close to the city centre, there is a huge difference between cruise passengers and young, low-budget mass tourists, who understandably cause considerable annoyance to local residents. We have to emphasise this difference.”
The need to get decision makers and politicians on board was also stressed by Kouwenberg. “Explain the industry’s efforts in the field of sustainability and in spreading passengers across more places than just the Amsterdam city centre. Improve contact with local residents and students, for example by inviting them on board an ‘open boat’. Thinking about ways to let the city and its residents benefit from cruise tourism will certainly promote acceptance for our sector.” The Amsterdam Breakfast participants seemed to appreciate the advice, with ‘point taken’ being a frequent response.
It was a good year for Seatrade Cruise Global, an event aimed less at padding the order books and more towards meeting partners and acquaintances in the sector. In some cases, Kouwenberg observed, people not showing up for appointments was a compliment for Amsterdam as it meant they had no problems to discuss. The well-attended Happy Hour offered a low-threshold opportunity to informally catch up, and useful encounters also took place in the corridors. The Dutch cruise delegation was very grateful to the Dutch consul general in Miami Gera Sneller for her support and involvement in the sector, as demonstrated by her speech at the Amsterdam Breakfast.
“ACP is very happy with the opportunity that Seatrade Cruise Global once again offered us to chat with our international partners about the important evolutions in the sector,” Kouwenberg concludes. “We are already looking forward to next year and even considering whether we might need some extra square metres of stand space.”