The cruise ships have returned to Palma. | Jaume Morey

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The Balearic Ports Authority (APB) has received scheduling from cruise operators for stopovers in Palma in 2022. At present, 496 are programmed, some way short of the 600 in 2019.

For the current year, there will be a total of 186 stopovers. Cruise ships started to return to Palma in June after the Spanish government's merchant marine directorate gave permission for Spanish ports to be used - all cruise ship activity was halted in March 2020. The 186 stopovers up to the end of the year will bring in around 100,000 passengers.

Beatriz Orejudo of the association of maritime activity businesses says that there has been great demand for Palma. From just two ships in June, the growth has seen 15 ships in July, 23 in August and 40 in September. October will conclude with there having been 63 ships. In November, 35 ships are scheduled, while eight are programmed for December.

She adds that ships are currently subject to a protocol of 50% capacity. Since operations restarted, she notes, not a single infection has affected activity in Palma.

Regarding the issue of cruise-ship limits, Orejudo accepts that it is a "controversial question" and one that needs to discussed in detail. As well as a limit to the number of ships, there would have to be a reorganisation. This would result in "a regulated arrival of stopovers".

Over this weekend, the International Cruise Summit is being held in Madrid. The conference of major cruise operators and providers of ports' services will be considering an anticipated "boom" in Mediterranean cruise shipping, starting in 2022 and one that will be felt in the Balearics.

The ports authority is meanwhile analysing developments at the port. It is in favour of regulation of arrivals, but points out that not all cruise ships are of the "mega" variety, the ones that generate the most opposition. The APB has to factor in the revenue that is derived from cruise tourism, not just for the port itself but also the various businesses in the city - hotels, restaurants, shops, taxi drivers, transport operators.