Cartagena, Colombia, is witnessing a significant surge in its cruise season, which began in October 2023 and is set to conclude on June 23, 2024. This season is marked by the arrival of 190 ships, bringing an estimated 473,562 visitors to the city’s shores. The influx not only enhances the city’s maritime landscape but also injects substantial economic vitality into the local economy.
Economic Impact and Logistical Challenges for Colombia
The cruise season’s highlight includes the arrival of the Royal Clipper, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Sun, and Vista from Oceania Cruises, among others, bringing thousands of passengers and crew members. These visits are expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for Cartagena.
The season also poses logistical challenges, with nine instances of three ships docking simultaneously and two occasions with five ships. These are not just operational feats for the terminal but also significant opportunities for Cartagena’s residents, as the tourist spending multiplies with over ten thousand visitors in a single day.
The season is not limited to brief visits; 29 scheduled overnight stays allow cruisers to enjoy Cartagena’s nightlife, from bars to clubs, increasing the average expenditure and, consequently, the economic impact. Additionally, the Royal Caribbean line is reintroducing embarkations from Cartagena every Sunday for three months, allowing Colombians and tourists from South, Central America, and the Caribbean to start their cruise journeys directly from the city. This move is expected to positively influence tourism figures in Colombia.
The influx of tourists is a boon for local businesses, particularly those in the hospitality and retail sectors. Restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, and local artisans are experiencing increased patronage, translating into higher revenues and, in some cases, the need for additional staff. This economic ripple effect extends to tour operators, taxi drivers, and street vendors, who all benefit from the increased foot traffic in the city.
With the rise in cruise ship arrivals, Cartagena is also focusing on environmental sustainability and infrastructure development. Measures are being taken to ensure that the increase in tourism does not negatively impact the city’s natural and urban environments. Efforts include waste management initiatives, sustainable tourism practices, and improvements in urban infrastructure to accommodate the growing number of visitors.
Future Prospects and Challenges
Looking ahead, Cartagena’s port authorities and tourism officials are preparing for continued growth in cruise tourism. This involves planning for further infrastructure enhancements, staff training in hospitality and tourism management, and marketing strategies to attract more cruise lines and tourists. However, managing this growth sustainably and ensuring that the benefits are widely distributed among the local population remain key challenges.