The Balearic Islands have witnessed a significant surge in cruise passenger numbers this year, marking a strong recovery post-pandemic and a growing preference for these picturesque Spanish destinations among cruise passengers.
During the first ten months of the year, the Balearic Islands, which include Mallorca, Ibiza, and Menorca, welcomed over two million guests from cruise ships. However, while the economic benefits are significant, the downside is that the area is now considered one with the worst cruise pollution in the world.
Remarkable Increase in Cruise Passengers
Data published by the Spanish Port Authority reveals a striking increase in the number of cruise passengers visiting the Balearic Islands in 2023. Between January and October, the islands welcomed 2,324,157 guests, a 45.7% increase compared to last year.
After the busy summer season, the number of cruise passengers visiting the islands did not slow down. October saw 352,585 cruise guests arrive to the islands, 22.9% more than in the same month last year.
The Balearic Islands, known for their natural beauty, vibrant culture, and warm Mediterranean climate, have become a prime destination for cruise ships. The allure of destinations like Mallorca, Ibiza, and Menorca is evident from the number of cruise ships that visit the region each year.
In October, a total of 590 cruise ships arrived in Spanish ports, with the Balearic Islands hosting the most, followed closely by Barcelona. However, the popularity of the Balearic Islands is something that has many concerned.
While the increasing numbers indicate a booming cruise sector, the influx of cruise ships has raised questions about pollution and the preservation of the natural beauty that makes these islands so appealing.
According to a 2019 report by Transport & Environment, the port of Palma de Mallorca ranks third in terms of cruise ship pollution in Europe, just behind major cruise homeports Barcelona and Civitavecchia.
“Spain, Italy, Greece, France, and Norway are the most exposed countries to cruise ship air pollution in Europe. Among the major cruise ports, Barcelona and Palma Mallorca are the most polluted.” according to Transport & Environment.
Spanish Ports Riding The Wave
Spain, on the whole, has seen a resurgence in cruise tourism. The number of cruise passengers passing through Spanish ports between January and October exceeded pre-pandemic figures by 12.3%, with over 10.1 million passengers arriving in Spain by cruise ship.
Barcelona, despite a partial cruise ban that started in October, is the most popular cruise port, welcoming 3,137,559 guests, followed by the Balearic Islands. Other Spanish ports that have seen a massive increase in cruise ship traffic are Canary Island ports Las Palmas, with 1,027,491 cruise passengers, and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, with 732,326 arrivals.
All in all, 3096 cruise ship calls were made so far in 2023. The Balearics lead with 696 calls, Barcelona follows closely with 695 calls, next is Las Palmas with 435, and Santa Cruz de Tenerife remains popular with 360 calls. Other popular cruise ports in Spain include Valencia, Cartagena, Bilbao, and Ibiza.
The reason that Spain remains popular with cruise lines and cruise passengers is reasonably easy to understand. While Barcelona may have started toning down the number of ships that are welcome in the city, and the Spanish government implemented several measures to levy VAT on cruise passengers, the country remains welcoming towards cruise lines, and for good reason.
According to a study by Tourism Economics / Oxford Economics for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the sector had an economic impact of €5.67 billion and created more than 42,240 jobs in Spain during the year 2022.