How do you judge headlines claiming, for instance, that “Cruise ships are polluting ports”?
Wybcke Meier: That is not correct. At the Port of Hamburg, for instance, only three per cent of the nitrogen oxide emissions are from cruise ships. Currently, there are 320 cruise ships worldwide, but 40,000 merchant ships. Cruise ships thus account for less than one per cent of global ship traffic, and this will not change much through the launch of the planned newbuilds. Moreover, the cruise industry is an innovation driver, using environmental technologies such as scrubbers and catalysts to clean its exhaust gases. These systems basically wash the exhaust gases, extending far beyond statutory requirements.
But does the cruise industry not cause “overtourism” in places such as Venice?
Meier: Only eight per cent of the 28 million tourists visiting Venice every year arrive onboard a cruise ship. Our cruise line TUI Cruises does not call at port of the lagoon city, as we regard our ships as too big. Of course, smaller towns such as Dubrovnik face strains if three cruise ships arrive at the same time. However, in planning our itineraries, we seek to avoid such overlaps in terms of port calls as far as possible. German customers take cruises in order to explore many beautiful places, their culture and history. The cities can actually plan ahead as our port calls are known in advance, unlike the arrival of other day tourists.
Passengers aboard the ships consume a lot, generating a lot of waste – what happens to the waste?
Meier: Waste management aboard cruise ships is an important and complex topic. We have intensively addressed this topic from the very beginning, and launched systematic waste management programmes from the start to reduce the quantity of waste and foster waste separation. Waste generated on all ships of the Mein Schiff fleet is sorted and subsequently shredded, pressed or incinerated, or landed ashore for recycling or appropriate disposal. Waste separation on board a ship basically does not differ from waste sorting ashore. Waste generated aboard the ships of the Mein Schiff fleet is sorted into glass, paper and cardboard, plastics, metals and aluminium, food leftovers and hazardous waste. Each waste category is then processed and treated separately in order to guarantee environmentally friendly waste disposal.
In the past few years, we have additionally initiated two pioneering waste prevention projects, setting standards in our sector. In 2017, we launched a project to reduce food waste. Measures to avoid food waste aboard Mein Schiff 4 were developed in the framework of a pilot project. Last year, these measures were then rolled out to the entire fleet, cutting food waste by 17 per cent. Last year, we launched an additional project aimed at reducing waste: Our “Wasteless” project will seek to avoid the use of single-use plastics and other disposable products as far as possible. TUI Cruises is planning to eliminate these single-use items to the extent possible by 2020.
Another point of criticism raised is that cruise passengers do not consume anything ashore ...
Meier: ... that is not correct, either. They actually spend considerable amounts. Our guests usually book three to four excursions and are genuinely interested in exploring the country and its people. According to a study carried out by CLIA, 48 euros are spent per shore excursion per passenger. If you include the trip to and from the port as well as overnight stays, this amount triples to 156 euros. This exceeds the amount spent by many onshore day trippers, who only buy a coke or a sandwich. The excursions benefit local bus operators, travel reps and city guides, local artists as well as museums and attractions.
Wybcke Meier has been CEO TUI Cruises since October 2014.