Representatives of European ports gather in Riga to solve challenges faced by cruise business
Cruise tourism is one of the world’s most rapidly growing tourism segments. Currently, the opportunity to go on a cruise is used by approximately 23 million passengers every year, and forecasts suggest that this number will increase by one third by the end of the next decade. The Port of Riga also sets new cruise traffic records every season. Last year, the number of cruise passengers increased by 22.4% reaching 87.4K, which is an absolute record for the Port of Riga. Last year, Riga was a destination for 86 cruise ships; whereas, this year, the visits of more than 90 cruise ships have already been notified. Moreover, the size of cruise ships entering the Port of Riga has almost doubled over the last decade. While the average DWT of a cruise ship was 23.7K GT in 2008, this indicator reached already 42.8K GT in 2017.
Cruise ships are not just a good opportunity for the city and the port to earn, but represent also new challenges. Mr Edgars Sūna, Deputy CEO of the Freeport of Riga Authority, explained: “On the one hand, we experience a constant increase in the number of cruise passengers, an increase in the size of ships and the growing comfort demands of cruise passengers. On the other hand, we must observe even stricter environmental standards, preserve the historical values of the city and respect the lifestyle of city residents. This causes serious challenges to all European cruise ports, including Riga.”
In order to find solutions for challenges associated with cruise business, the Freeport of Riga and other European ports have been involved in the project “Green Cruise Port – Sustainable Development of Cruise Port Locations” financed by the European Regional Development Fund. Within the framework of the project, ports jointly analyse the situation and look for solutions for the topical issues in three main areas: 1) port infrastructure development according to sustainability criteria, 2) environmentally friendly passenger land transport connections at the port 3) ecological and economic impacts of cruise passenger excursions on the port cities.
On 25-26 April, representatives of the ports involved in the “Green Cruise Port” project gathered in Riga. As noted by project participants, the greatest future challenge is to develop a sustainable, joint policy with regard to cruise ports in Europe. “We need standardisation, hence, it is important to gather and understand what happens in Hamburg, Stockholm or Riga. These projects will enable us to make ports more friendly for business, environment and people,” pointed out Mr Hans Ulrich Wolff, the coordinator of the “Green Cruise Port” project.
The opportunity to exchange information and experience with other European cruise ports within the framework of the “Green Cruise Port” project is highly important for the Port of Riga. Although the number of cruise ships visiting Riga every year is significantly smaller compared to such ports as Hamburg or Amsterdam, which welcome approximately 200 ships annually, the interest in Riga as a cruise destination keeps growing every year. “We believe that Riga has a great potential for the development of cruise business, and for this reason, the participation of the Port of Riga in this project is crucial,” emphasizes Mr Hans Ulrich Wolff.