VALLETTA, Malta – After a dismal year for cruise liner activity in Malta, good news is once again starting to trickle in, with the confirmation that TUI Cruises will be using Malta for homeporting again in 2014 and 2015, and MSC also planning to operate its ship, the Lerica, from Malta after it has completed an extension in spring 2014.
Sources told The Sunday Times of Malta that the forecast for 2014 is around 500,000 – still well below the 609,000 cruise passengers that came to Malta in 2012. However, operators are optimistic that Malta will get back to the 600,000 mark by 2015.
The number of cruise passengers during the ﬁrst nine months dropped by 27.9 per cent to 310,690, which was also well below the 374,000 arrivals during the same period in 2011.
TUI had announced in September that it would be using its new ship, Mein Schiff 3 from Malta as from summer 2014, and its CEO Richard Vogel was in Malta last week to confirm that the homeporting agreement would extend to 2015. In all, it is estimated that TUI will bring around 49,000 passengers – mostly German – to Malta. Since the start of homeporting operation in May 2011, TUI Cruises have brought close to 130,000 cruise passengers to Malta.
TUI Cruises are represented in Malta by SMS. Its subsidiary Orange Travel Group handles departures from Malta and book over 2,000 passengers a year.
Valletta Cruise Port had been left floundering for some months earlier this year, with various cruise companies cancelling their visits to Malta and little focus on how to replace them. The reinstatement of chairman Joseph Zammit Tabona was widely expected by the industry stakeholders to give fresh impetus and direction, and various sources close to the shareholders have since confirmed they are now very optimistic that there will be a turnaround of this important industry.