Izmir hosted Seatrade Turkish Cruise Forum

The Seatrade Turkish Cruise Forum has closed on July 5th with delegates leaving Izmir after a 1.5 day conference and networking session, which saw cruise lines, ports and suppliers come together.

They discussed the growing momentum for cruise tourism in Turkey and purchasing strategies and opportunities for local sourcing.

In welcoming delegates to the conference on Wednesday 4th July, Seatrade Chairman Chris Hayman stated “these are exciting times for Turkey which last year welcomed 2.5m passengers to its shores. In addition 50,000 Turkish cruise passengers joined ships, a figure set to rise 30% to 65,000 in 2012, making Turkey one of Europe’s fastest growing source markets”.

Ekrem Demirtas President of the Executive Board, Izmir Chamber of Commerce discussed how Turkey is looking to grow its cruise business. “In the first 6 months of 2012, we have seen 300 ships carrying 355,000 passengers to Turkey. Our aim for the port of Izmir, one of the country’s three leading cruise ports is to become one of the top 50 cruise destinations in the world”. The passenger port is up for privatisation which includes the building of new berths and infrastructure which when completed in 2015 will have the capacity to handle 2 million passengers a year.

Ertugrul Gunay, Minster of Culture and Tourism, Republic of Turkey stated “Tourism is important as it creates peace. We are seeing Greece, Turkey and the Black Sea emerging as cruise destinations and if we cooperate together the Aegean Sea will become the most popular cruise arena in the world outstripping the Caribbean”

During the event, Demirtas announced representatives from Turkey’s cruise community met to establish the Turkish Cruise Platform, to further promote cruise tourism within the country.

Turkey is one of the fastest growing economies with an expected growth of 5% in 2012. It is the 15th largest GDP market and the 6th largest economy in Europe.

Dario Rustico, Sales and Marketing Director Central Europe, Africa, Middle East and India, Costa Crociere S.p.A spoke about the opportunities to grow both calls and locally sourced passengers. “With 6.6 million Turkish tourists travelling abroad there is huge potential here”, he remarked.

“Outbound will automatically feed inbound, as bigger ships are deployed to Turkey”, Rustico said. Costa has seven ships calling Turkey during 2012 picking up passengers in Istanbul and Izmir, making 108 calls carrying 372,000 passengers, a figure set to increase by around 9% during 2013.

Whilst speakers praised the country’s port facilities and services levels they also spoke about challenges that need to be overcome including Schengen Visas needed by Turkish passengers to travel to European Ports. However Kerry Anastassiadis, CEO Louis Cruises praised Turkey’s ability to listen and take action, “in certain places bureaucracy is the byword, but here you talk and you see action. Hopefully we will hear some positive news on visa and port cost issues in the near future.”

Erkunt Oner CEO, Tura Turizm, reiterated the IMO regulations for which all countries are signatories facilitating cruise passengers staying in a port for less than 72 hours are exempt from a visa. “Whilst Turkey is adhering to this rule the Schengen countries are not”.

And he pointed out “if this is waived there is a huge potential out of Turkey and neighbouring countries, such as Russia, Ukraine and Arabic countries.”

Other discussions covered the need to understand variety when it comes to shore excursions, Mary Shaw-Delaney, Director Shoreside Programmes, Silversea Cruises identified how guests want culture, adventure, shopping, dining, convenience and security – “all found in abundance here in Turkey.”

The opportunity for local suppliers to increase their engagement with the cruise sector was also covered.  Eduardo Lopez-Puertas, VP Land Operations, Pullmantur said “Turkey offers very good prices and service levels but it is important to invest in logistics.” Cruise line panellists said they are open to business proposals from local suppliers but added it is highly challenging and there is no option to fail or delay deliveries.

On the morning 5th July, 30 companies attended a networking brunch with ports and suppliers showcasing their products and services and what they can offer to create a comprehensive supply structure for cruise lines operating in the Eastern Med. Companies included travel agents, ship agents, textile producers, porcelain manufacturers, food and beverage suppliers, ports, tourism offices, ship chandlers and repairers.

“I found it invaluable to meet suppliers face-to-face and the time to discuss mutual business opportunities,” said Mike Deegan, Operations Director, All Leisure Holidays

Participants were treated to warm Turkish hospitality throughout the event, with a Welcome Reception at the Tarihi Havagazi Fabrikasi (Historical Coal Gas Factory) on the Tuesday evening, and a Gala Dinner at the Rain Club Saime Sultan Yalisi Turan / Bayrakli on the Wednesday evening.

The Seatrade Turkish Cruise Forum took place at the Swissotel Grand Efes, Izmir, organised by Seatrade and held in conjunction with Izmir Chamber of Commerce. The event was sponsored by Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, Cesme Ulusoy Port, The Tourist Guides Chamber of Izmir, ITS-ALDO, Karadeveci, Karavanmar Cruise Services, ARKAS Travel – MSC Cruises, Pinar, Sea Song Tours, Turkish Airlines and Tura Turizm.