Spain stands out as a tourist power in cruises with the challenge of sustainability

The energy transition will entail an investment in the Spanish port network of more than 4.

Spain stands out as a tourist power in cruises with the challenge of sustainability

The energy transition will entail an investment in the Spanish port network of more than 4.5 billion


Spain stands out as a cruise tourism power worldwide with the challenge of sustainability as one of the most pressing. The economic impact of the sector last year was around 9.5 billion euros, according to data from Ocean Capital Partners (OCP), which assures that the energy transition will entail an investment in the Spanish port network of more than 4.5 billion euros.

The cruise industry has exceeded expectations after reaching a historic number of passengers and setting a new record for arrivals in Spain. Thanks to the resurgence of tourism after the pandemic, the mark registered in 2019 was surpassed even before the end of 2023, a milestone that confirms the momentum of the sector.

Today, Spain remains the second cruise destination in Europe, behind Italy. At the end of 2023, more than 12 million passengers arrived on cruise ships in Spanish ports, a figure that represents a strong increase of 46.8% compared to 2022.

The ports that topped the classification by volume of cruise passengers were those of Barcelona and the Balearic Islands, although the increase in the Port of Cádiz (72.4%) and in the Canary Islands ports was especially notable.

The forecasts are that the growth in demand for cruises will maintain a growing trend over the next few years and to this end, new ships will be put into operation, most of them more sustainable. This year, another 14 new ships are scheduled to be delivered, six of them will be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The fixed price or the complete catalog of services on board could be among the reasons for the explosion of this industry, as explained by the firm specialized in the port sector, which nevertheless warns of the challenges that the sector will have to face in the coming years. , especially those related to sustainability.

The industry faces the challenge of complying with Brussels: CO2 emissions must be reduced by 40% by 2030 and their complete elimination must be achieved by 2050.

Currently, large shipping companies are renewing their fleet and manufacturing the ships of the future, much more respectful of the marine environment. To comply with the Brussels rulings, large vessels must progressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 2025 to 2050.

The new environmental challenges facing ports and the cruise sector are being addressed through initiatives such as the electrification of ports and ships, the use of alternative fuels, such as LNG, advances in digitalization and innovation, as well as the integration between port and city.

The transition to cleaner systems such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) or hybrid engines will therefore play a crucial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"The cruise industry, with the inclusion of electrification systems and the advance in the use of alternative fuels, is making adequate progress in relation to sustainability, not only environmental, but also economic," according to OCP experts.

And the cruise industry has been working for years on the development of more sustainable technologies, including the installation of systems that allow connection with shore power on its new vessels. However, for these initiatives to be effective, port infrastructures are required to build new facilities that enable electrical connection.

This implies facing a series of additional difficulties, such as the weakness of the electrical network in the last mile of the port or determining the appropriate power according to the type of vessel. In the case of cruise ships, it is necessary to consider that between 10 and 20 MW of capacity are required.

In addition to meeting environmental requirements, the tourism sector must commit, according to experts, to guaranteeing tourism sustainability, "a challenge that becomes especially pressing due to growing criticism about the overcrowding generated by cruises in stopover cities." .

For this reason, it is considered "crucial" that the industry continues to expose the benefits of this type of vacation, with the aim of compensating for the criticism received in relation to overcrowding.

It is also considered essential to look for alternatives that allow a sustainable industry to flourish from a social point of view.

"It is important to keep in mind that both environmental challenges and those related to ensuring sustainable tourism in cities are linked to the great challenge of this industry: maintaining cruising speed and continuing to add travelers. To achieve this, it would be essential to attract young generations to this type of tourism while guaranteeing sustainability and economic profitability," the report concludes.