Cruise passenger traffic reached 6,060,571 passengers in 2009, with a rise of 3% compared with the previous year. Following the pattern of previous years, this type of tourism, which is more focused on cultural and leisure interests, now accounts for more than 11.6% of the 52.2 million tourists who visited Spain.

If we compare the figure for cruise passengers with 2004, when traffic stood at 3.6 million passengers, the annual growth rate is greater than 14%, much higher than the growth of the Spanish economy in the same period. As a result of the hard work put in, a great many  of the Port Authorities now have a significant number of cruise ship stopovers a year. In fact, 12 out of the 24 Port Authorities receiving cruise ships have traffic in excess of 30,000 passengers a year.

By maritime frontage, in the South-East (Mediterranean and South Atlantic), which embraces the ports of Barcelona, Tarragona, Castellón, Balearic Islands, Valencia, Alicante, Cartagena, Almería, Motril, Málaga, Melilla, Bahía de Algeciras, Ceuta, Bahía de Cádiz, Seville and Huelva and which accounts for 75% of passenger traffic, a figure of 4.5 million cruise passengers was reached, with an average growth of 3%. Most notable on this frontage was Barcelona, the undisputed leader in Europe, which exceeds 2.15 million passengers, and the Balearic Islands, which, despite a slight drop, continue to be the second most important destination in Europe.

The case of the port of Málaga merits special attention as the number of cruise passengers has trebled in the last nine years, reaching 487,955 passengers and becoming the fifth favourite Spanish port as a cruise destination, having earned the approval of the operators as a base port and created new facilities and refurbished some of the existing ones.

The North-Northwest frontage, which is made up of the ports of Bilbao, Santander, Gijón, Avilés, Ferrol-San Cibrao, A Coruña and Vilagarcía, saw 330,605 cruise passengers, accounting for 5.4% of the national total. With nearly 223,000 passengers, Vigo is the most visited port.

The Canary Islands, which includes the ports managed by the Port Authorities of Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is the second most important market in Europe, and with nearly 1.2 million cruise passengers, it has experienced a 5% growth.

A relevant impact on tourism

It is undeniable that the Port Authorities contribute to the generation of greater impacts on sectors linked to cruise activity and which are largely encompassed in the global tourist industry. The actions carried out by the Port Authorities come  under both the area of commercial development and the development of port infrastructures.

In the commercial aspect, the most common actions are related to alliances with other ports for the joint promotion of lines (such as Costa Verde, Suncruise and Cruise in the Atlantic Islands) or participation in port associations aimed at increasing efficiency, the exchange of information, security planning and improvement, and collaboration with the shipping companies in the design of routes.

In relation to the development of port infrastructure, the actions of the Port Authorities are geared towards matching the basic infrastructure and facilities available in the port to the quality requirements set out by the operators. As a result, the length of moorings has been improved and increased to adapt to longer ships, maritime passenger buildings have been improved or new ones created, port uses have been rearranged to prevent disturbance or disruption to commercial goods traffic, and passenger land accesses to the port complexes have been improved.

All of these actions, which are undertaken by the Port Authorities with the aim of attracting and/or consolidating cruise traffic, will be channelled in the 2009-2013 period into investment of over 285 million euros in the port system as a whole. The most notable projects are those undertaken by the Port Authorities of Alicante, Bahía de Algeciras, the Balearics, Barcelona, Bilbao, Cartagena, Las Palmas, Málaga, Melilla, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Valencia and Vigo.