European Ports See Drop in Vistors, Spending

By Reuters 2015-06-25 08:41:27

European cruise destinations such as Santorini, Lisbon and Oslo suffered dwindling visitor numbers and spending last year for the first time in a decade as Americans cancelled trips to the Baltic and Mediterranean over geopolitical concerns.

Visits to European ports of call were down 7 percent after almost 9 percent growth a year earlier, a report issued by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) on Thursday showed.

Passengers and crew spent 3.64 billion euros ($4.08 billion)at ports in Europe last year according to the report, 4.2 percent less than in 2013.

American tourists, concerned about unrest in North African and adjacent eastern Mediterranean countries and about tensions between Russia and Ukraine, shied away from booking trips to the region, Michael Ungerer, chairman of CLIA Germany, told Reuters.

Tourists from Europe — accounting for 30 percent of worldwide passengers and ranking second behind the United States — backed off from certain destinations as well, Ungerer said.

“The Black Sea region has been removed completely from our schedules,” he said, and destinations in the Gulf and in Asia had meanwhile become increasingly popular.

Europe is the world’s second-largest cruise destination after the Caribbean, but some cruise operators like Carnival and Royal Caribbean cut capacity there last year.

The number of Europeans booking cruises remained stable at 6.4 million in 2014 as declining bookings in Britain, Italy and Spain — partly affected by weak economies — were offset by a growing number of bookings in Germany.

Germany for the first time replaced Britain as the largest European market with a market share of 28 percent. “The Germans still have some catching up to do and the range of offers there is growing faster than anywhere else,” Ungerer said.

Worldwide, cruise operators served 22 million passengers last year, an increase of 3.4 percent over 2013.

CLIA said that as cruise operators, especially from North America, return capacity to Europe, markets there should recover.


China Says Manila Roping in Others in Maritime Dispute

By Reuters 2015-06-25 08:29:39

China’s military on Thursday accused the Philippines of trying to “rope in” other countries to the dispute over ownership of the South China Sea and stir regional tension after Japan joined a military drill with the Philippines.

According to Japanese and Philippine officials, a Japanese surveillance aircraft, with three Filipino guest crew members, this week flew at 5,000 feet (1,524 m) above the edge of Reed Bank, an energy-rich area that is claimed by both China and the Philippines. It was accompanied by a smaller Philippine patrol aircraft.

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun, asked about the exercises, said that bilateral military cooperation between countries should benefit regional peace and security and not harm the interests of third parties.

“Certain countries are roping in countries from outside the region to get involved in the South China Sea issue, putting on a big show of force, deliberately exaggerating the tense atmosphere in the region,” he told a monthly news briefing.

“This way of doing things will not have a beneficial effect on the situation in the South China Sea.”

The exercise by Japan and the Philippines comes as Manila conducts separate drills with the U.S. military that began last week.

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims

Japan worries that China’s domination in a region through which much of its sea-borne trade passes would isolate it. Tokyo is also locked in a dispute with Beijing over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

However, China and Japan have been gradually rebuilding ties after Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held ice-breaking talks in Beijing last year.

Yang said that China and Japan had resumed discussions last week about setting up an air and maritime communication mechanism, designed to reduce the risk of accidents and misunderstandings.

Both countries agreed to step up preparatory talks on setting up this mechanism, he added.