The Danube Summit Conference and Exhibition returned to the Romanian Black Sea port of Constantza – the city where the event first convened in June 2002. The 4th Danube Summit, which ran from 4-6 June 2008, took place at the port's new cruise terminal, in the heart of Constantza's port area. Leaders from southeast Europe's transport and logistics community convened to discuss Danube and Black Sea cooperation as the key theme of the conference.
While the Port of Constantza serves both river and maritime cruise vessels, the highlight of the conference was a roundtable workshop on the promotion of maritime cruise tourism in Romania and in the Black Sea.
Officially supported by the Romanian Ministry of Transport and the Regional Council of the Constantza area, Constantza's selection as the venue reflected its leading position as a transit and hub port for the Black Sea region. Container throughput over the past five years has seen spectacular growth, with some 130,000 TEU handled in 2002, rising to a forecast of 2.0 million TEU in 2008.
A focal point of the Danube Summit was the cruise workshop that took place on 6 June, which united Constantza's local leaders, including the Constantza City Council, the Port of Constantza, the Romanian Riviera Tourism Promotion Board, ship agents, tour operators, and the Romanian border police, plus Venezia Terminal Passeggeri and the Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports (MedCruise). MedCruise Secretary General, José Campos, stressed the importance of the local players' collaboration in developing short- and long-term strategic plans towards the final goal, which they agreed was for Constantza to become a celebrated cruise port.
"This is MedCruise's first official visit to Romania and we are genuinely honoured to take part in the Danube Summit and its special section dedicated to cruise tourism," stated Campos. "In our view, Constantza Port, which became a member of MedCruise in 2007, is ready to serve as the gateway for many thousands of cruise tourists to enter Romania for the first time. Romania is a fascinating country ready to be discovered." Campos spoke of the high growth rates in cruise passenger traffic at its member ports in the Black Sea, and in particular, at Constantza, which has seen maritime cruise traffic increase from approximately 1,500 passengers in 2002 to over 16,000 in 2007. Holland America's MS Rotterdam is calling at Constantza this season and Costa Crociere is now returning to Constantza after an absence of several years. Local tourism promoters and ship agents discussed the investments that have been made to improve services and facilities for cruise passengers calling at Constantza, including tailored shore excursions focusing on the region's diverse culture and history dating before the sixth century BC. Those present linked the development of cruise tourism with the growth of tourism in general and the economic development of the area.
"From the host port's perspective, the Danube Summit was a success", said Constantin Matei, General Manager of the Port of Constantza. "Compared to the 2002 edition, when 150 guests were present, this year the event counted with almost 300 participants and this means that the Port of Constantza is of great interest to the world of maritime and river transportation."
"The Port of Constantza offers all the necessary conditions for the development of cruise tourism," Matei continued, "but we depend on more than infrastructure. The cruise terminal has the capacity of 100,000 passengers, but last year only 25,000 river and sea passengers transited it. The number of passengers will grow when Constantza and Romania are seen as key tourist destinations. The cruise terminal is a gate, not a destination. We must develop tourist attractions for our country to become an interesting tourist destination, to offer them not only an attractive Constantza, but also an attractive Romania, and for this to happen, several institutions are now working together."