The Cruise Copenhagen Network gathered at the Nimb restaurant and hotel in the center of Copenhagen today to discuss the latest issues and challenges facing the network of local businesses as cruise traffic surges in the region, joined by representatives from AIDA, CLIA, MSC and SeaDream a day before Cruise Baltic’s conference.

Terry Dale, CEO and president of CLIA, talked about utilizing tour operators to package the value of Copenhagen. Dale cited surveys saying that the average overnight visitor spends $257 pre or post-cruise.
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AIDA Cruises has increased traffic in Copenhagen from 10 calls in 2008, calling 38 times this past season with 52 calls planned for 2011.

Three more ships are on order for the German company, representing a 2.3 billion euro investment that will see seven ships delivered yearly through 2013.

“The German cruise market penetration is only 1.2 percent, and our growth is expected at 10 to 15 percent over the next few years,” said Captain Burkhard Mueller, director of fleet services for AIDA.

“We saw a 27.5 percent growth in revenue in 2009, despite the recession,” Mueller continued.

AIDA has grown the German market, starting with a goal of 200,000 passengers in 1996,added Mueller.

MSC Cruises has seen a growth curve too, going from 127,000 passengers in 2003 to a projected 1,400,000 in 2013. MSC had three ships in Northern Europe in 2010, according to Neil Palomba, chief operating officer.

“We’re not ready to announce anything but we’re looking at increasing capacity and extending the season in the region,” said Palomba. MSC will add 250 calls to the region in 2011, including 39 turnarounds in Copenhagen.

Interestingly, Palomba said that 39.2 percent of passengers carried in Northern Europe were Germans, followed by Italians at 17.7 percent.

He said the biggest challenges one of the biggest challenges were competing shore excursion vendors and port fees.

“There are players on the internet selling shore excursion at much lower prices, they are a threat, as are the people selling them pier side. Shore ex is a fundamental revenue stream for us.

“We filled the ships last year, but our yields went down,” he pointed out. “But we saw no change in port fees. We put money into new ships and hardware, and get the passengers to town. We don’t want to see what happened in Alaska with the head tax happen anywhere else.”

Ian Buckeridge, Senior Director at SeaDream Yacht Club, highlighted that SeaDream is coming to the region for the first time with five cruises in 2011.

“Copenhagen has tremendous airlift and great options for pre- and post-cruise stay packages,” he said, also pointing out that they do not sell packages directly.

Continuing, Buckeridge said there was an uptick in direct bookings for the luxury line, but that 84 percent of business for the two 112-passenger ships came through travel agents.

He added that they were warning agents about “having breakdowns where they give away 50 percent or more of their commission with discounts.”

“Not counting plane tickets or a hotel stay, our agents can earn a $1,000 commission on a cabin in the Mediterranean and 50 to 60 percent more in the Baltic,” said Buckeridge.

Buckeridge echoed the same comments as Palomba, saying that costs are going up, especially at ports in Europe, and yields weren’t moving as quickly.

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