BARCELONA – After more than a year, cruise ships can again be seen in the port of Barcelona. August looks like a promising month with about as many ships as before the pandemic. However, the number of tourists taking a cruise through the Mediterranean is still far behind.
Between March 2020 and June 2021, there were virtually no cruise ships in the port of Barcelona. Only freighters or ships carrying equipment for support in the event of technical defects were docked there. However, since July, more ships have been seen in the Catalan port. And since August, the larger cruise ships have docked about six to seven times a week.
In July, the Catalan port recorded 16 cruise ship arrivals. Whereas in the first half of August, a ship has already sailed in and out of the harbor seventeen times. Thus August shows a picture similar to before the pandemic.
Number of tourists on cruise trips lags far behind
Despite the fact the number of cruise ships arrivals is almost equal to the weekly number before the pandemic, the amount of tourists on the ships is lagging behind. In July 2019, 358,760 tourists made a stopover in Barcelona during a cruise. Whereas, in July this year, the number was just 39,560 tourists.
Tourists making a cruise trip are currently 89% less than the level before the pandemic. The lagging number of tourists is undoubtedly due to the fact that this is a very specific form of travel and that cruise travel is not yet possible everywhere in the world.
Health protocol for resuming cruise trips Spain
In May, the Spanish government and the autonomous community authorities agreed on a protocol that would allow shipping companies to resume cruise voyages through Spanish ports. For example, a maximum of 75% of the usual capacity is allowed, all passengers must be able to submit a vaccination or test certificate and during long journeys, extra tests are carried out in between and the temperature of all passengers is measured.
Shipping companies biggest future plans in Barcelona
Despite the lagging demand for cruise travel, several shipping companies are planning to increase the number of trips. The shipping companies Norwegian Epic and Viking Barcelona will soon be added to their offer. The Italian MSC also announced that a new terminal in the Port of Barcelona will be built by 2024 to increase supply.
Division over cruise sector recovery
However, these growth prospects clash with the demands that various environmental and residents associations have made to the municipality of Barcelona. Residents of Barcelona and Ecologistas en Acción denounce the pollution caused by the cruise ships. According to them, Spain appears to be the second country in Europe with the highest CO2 emissions from cruise ships. On this issue – the arrival of more cruise ships and the emissions the ships produce – Barcelona’s city council is currently far from agreed.