Colchester/ Harwich: Haven Gateway to host Cruise Gateway North Sea conference

OPPORTUNITIES for the North Sea Region as a hub for cruise holidays will come under the spotlight at a two-day conference, starting tomorrow, which is being hosted by the Haven Gateway Partnership.

Delegates from ports and cities across Europe will be meeting at the FirstSite arts centre in Colchester for the mid-term conference of the EU-funded Cruise Gateway North Sea initiative.

Project members will also be taking a tour of Harwich International Port and its cruise terminal, where cruise passenger numbers have increased from 90,000 in 2011 to 100,000 this year, with further growth expected for 2013.

Cruise vessel calls at Harwich increased from 26 last year to 37 this year, and in 2013 the total will be well above 50. As well as cruise turn-rounds, when the port handles the start and finish of a cruise, Harwich is also seeing a steady increase in day calls, when the vessel calls in as part of its itinerary and the passengers disembark for local excursions.

The Cruise Gateway project was set up to consider ways of promoting more cruise activity in the North Sea Region (NSR), and the Haven Gateway has played an active role.

“The popularity of cruising, with all its attractions, continues to grow – not only among those who might be considered ‘traditional’ cruise passengers but also among younger age groups, including families,” said David Ralph, chief executive of the Haven Gateway.

“However, while the Baltic and Mediterranean seas in particular have seen strong growth in the cruise sector, the NSR has so far been less recognised as a destination in its own right. Yet the region offers incredible diversity – including beautiful landscapes, history and heritage.”

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Presentations during the conference will include the findings of a major report by Hamburg-based consultancy SeaConsult.

In a programme of research, workshops and best practice visits, the project partners – from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK – are considering a broad range of topics linked to cruise and cruise potential, including joint lobbying and marketing, the creation of a regional maritime identity and innovative ideas for passenger excursions.

Other speakers will included James Berresford, chief executive of Visit England, George Kieffer, chairman of the Haven Gateway Partnership, Sebastian Doderer, head of project development at Port of Hamburg Marketing, Cruise Gateway’s lead partner, and Nathan Philpot, of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.