Madrid.—The Ministry for Public Works forecast yesterday that cruise tourism will “start to grow again” in 2014 but at a lesser rate than in previous years.

Speaking yesterday at the International Cruise Summit in Madrid representing the industry on a global scale, Ignacio Arrondo the Ministry's Director for Services and Competitiveness said that in 2011, around 8 million passengers had boarded cruise ships or stopped off in Spanish ports. This figure, said Arrondo, is 11 percent higher than cruising tourist numbers registered in 2002.

Arrondo was responding to forecasts by the State Ports Authority which has said that cruising tourism will continue to decline throughout the coming year before showing signs of growth again in 2014.

He pointed to the fact that there had been a year-on-year decline in cruise tourist numbers in August, down by 2.58% in comparison with the same month in 2011. “It's important not to be lulled into a false sense of security because of the success of the cruise tourism industry in Spain in the past,” Arrondo said.

He alleged that government and tourism industry organisations had made “a particular effort” in providing safety and quality. He said that of the 28 ports authorities in Spain, 22 of them had proposed lower docking taxes to encourage cruise ships to stop off. Arrondo said that Spain was the second most popular cruise spot in Europe, superseded only by Italy. However, Barcelona still claimed the number one ranking for being the most sought after cruise destination on the continent.

Palma, he claimed was the fifth most popular stopping off port in Europe and pointed to the rise in the success of cruising in Malaga, the Canary Islands and Vigo. Arrondo said that cruising was now not just a past-time for the privileged.