Costa Crociere S.p.A., the largest Italian travel group and Europe’s favorite cruise line, has signed an agreement with Orizonia to acquire complete control of the Iberocruceros brand operating in the Spanish market.

Iberocruceros was established in 2007 as a joint venture between the Costa Crociere Group, which owned 75% of the company, and the leading Spanish tour operator Orizonia, which had a 25% stake. Through its acquisition of the remaining 25% of the capital, an operation which is conditional upon the official approval by the Spanish antitrust authority, Costa Crociere S.p.A. will control 100% of Iberocruceros.

“Despite the fact that the current economic and financial crisis has hit Spain harder than other European countries,” commented Costa Crociere S.p.A. Group Chairman & CEO Pier Luigi Foschi, “we remain convinced that this market is highly significant for the cruise industry and we see strong growth prospects here. Our investment to acquire full ownership of the Iberocruceros brand reflects our belief that an economic recovery is not far off and should also be seen as a sign of confidence and encouragement for Spanish tourism as a whole.”

The European Cruise Council (ECC) reported that in 2008 the cruise industry generated direct expenditure in Spain amounting to approximately 1 billion euros, 10% more than the year before. Spain is Europe’s third most popular cruise destination with around 3.6 million transit passengers in the nation’s ports, and the second busiest in Europe in terms of departing cruisers, with 1 million passenger movements. In 2008 about 500,000 Spaniards went on a cruise holiday (+27% compared to 2006), while the number of people employed in the industry was in excess of 22,000 (up 18% on 2007).

The importance of the role played by the Iberocruceros brand in the strengthening of the Costa Group’s position in the Spanish market was also underlined last October when the Italian company Costa Cruises’ Senior Vice President Sales & Commercial Mario Martini was co-opted onto the Board of Directors of the Spanish cruise line and appointed to the position of Chief Operating Officer.

Iberocruceros is headquartered in Madrid and currently has a fleet of 3 ships – the Grand Mistral, Grand Voyager and Grand Celebration – with combined total capacity of around 4,500 Guests.

In addition to Iberocruceros, the Costa Group also comprises the Italian brand Costa Cruises – the number one cruise company in Europe with 14 ships in service and 3 on order – and Aida Cruises, the number one cruise company for the German market with 6 ships in service and 3 on order.