Saturday, June 6, 2015 - 09:07 by ce-press
This year it was Santander’s turn to host the Cruise Europe Conference and it made the most of having a captive audience by showing them as much of what’s on offer to visitors as possible.
About 100 CE port members, cruiseline executives, suppliers and media gathered in the northern Spanish port in Cantabria in April.
Gema Igual, head of tourism and institutional relations Santander Town Hall, said at the conference opening: “Santander is mainly a service-oriented city with a high population working in tourism so we have a high interest in your conference. We are close to ports with higher cruise traffic. We only have 15,000 cruise passengers a year and we want more.”
Tourism generally in Cantabria accounts for 10.9% of the regional economy with more companies involved than ever before. There was recognition from the CEC hosts that it is important for the city, port and nearby ports of Spain and Portugal to work together to improve and promote the network and region.
“We are growing in terms of infrastructure which will provide attractive things for new visitors. We have also opened a tender for new ideas. Berthing at the city centre is magnificent.”
In 2011 there were 14,702 passengers to the port with numbers increasing to 18,000 by 2014. Eduardo Arasti, minister of tourism and industry Cantabria, commented: “This makes us optimistic. We are working harder and reinforcing cooperation between businesses and society as a whole.”
The quay can accommodate ships over 300m in length with the terminal used to handling regular ferry traffic. If a cruiseship calls during a regular ferry call, it is accommodated at a general cargo quay with a free shuttle bus provided into the city centre.
The most popular attractions in and around Santander are the Caves of Altamira with Paleolithic art, the Natural Park of Cabarceno - home to protected species such as white rhinos - and Santander city sightseeing according to Cristina Lopez Arias, general manager Santander Port Authority.
Up to 25% of cruise passengers take tours to Bilbao, home of the Guggenheim Museum. The hope is that once the art and culture centre funded by the Botin Foundation is opened in Santander this will create it’s own ‘Guggenheim effect’ for Santander.