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Dubai to gain from cruise tourism.

Byline: Arno Maierbrugger

Dubai Costa Cruises, Italy's largest tourism group and the largest cruise company in Europe, chose Dubai for the inauguration of its latest ship, Costa Deliziosa. Gulf News asked Costa Cruises' CEO Pier Luigi Foschi why he thinks Dubai is the perfect place for such an event.

Gulf News: Costa Cruises conducted the Gulf's first-ever cruise ship inauguration yesterday and chose Dubai as a venue. And the Costa Deliziosa is one of the best of your fleet. Has Dubai inspired you?

PIER LUIGI FOSCHI: We are pleased that our ship, the Costa Deliziosa, is the first to be inaugurated in an Arab city. And we believe that it is very important to do this in Dubai as the economic impact for both sides is high.

How high?

Approximately 14 million euros (Dh70 million), of which 8 million comes from Costa Cruises inclusive spending for logistics, and 6 million is estimated to be spent by passengers when they visit the city. On the inaugural trip alone, we carry 2,200 passengers on the Costa Deliziosa who visit Dubai and I think many will visit again.

The inauguration of the Costa Deliziosa coincides with the opening of Dubai's new cruise terminal. Was this intentional?

We realise that the government of Dubai is investing in tourism activities, and we appreciate these steps. The combined events are also a big opportunity to create visibility for cruise tourism.

How many of Costa's ship will be cruising in the gulf?

The Costa Deliziosa is the first one, and next year two more ships will be coming.

What about your competitors?

As I am also the chairman of Aida Cruises [which also calls at Dubai], I cannot say its a competitor. But Royal Caribbean certainly is a competitor for us in the region.

Costa Cruises is investing 2.4 billion euros in its fleet expansion programme for a total of five new ships by 2012. Hasn't Costa felt the economic downturn? How do you finance the fleet expansion?

The fleet expansion is mainly financed out of our cash flow. We have a strong balance sheet and are profitable. The Costa Deliziosa alone was built for 450 million euros. Of course, the economic downturn was felt by everybody, and we are not a lucky island. But we remain very profitable. To attract customers, we reduced our cruise prices by an average of eight per cent.

How does this reflect in Costa's passenger numbers?

In 2009, we carried about 1.3 million passengers, an increase of eight per cent compared to the year earlier.

The itinerary of the Costa Deliziosa to the Gulf leads through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden. Are there any issues with safety due to pirate activity in this waters?

Our safety standards are very high, and as far as the pirates are concerned, there are two ships of the Italian navy cruising in the waters of the Gulf of Aden which we can rely on. I can assure that pirates are not an issue for us.


Costa fleet expands

Costa Cruises, based in Genova, Italy, is Europe's largest cruise company and currently has a total fleet of 15 ships, all flying the Italian flag. In 2009, about 1.3 million guests were carried by Costa Cruises.

The latest addition to the fleet was the 450 million euro (Dh2.3 billion) ship Costa Deliziosa, weighing in at 92,000 gross tonnage and with a total guest capacity of 2,826. All of Costa Cruises ships are built by Italian company Fincantieri. During the winter of 2009-10 and 2010-11, the Costa Deliziosa and its sister ship Costa Luminosa, are offering seven-day cruises in the Arabian Gulf with departure from Dubai and stopovers in Muscat, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.

The Costa Deliziosa is the third ship delivered to the Italian company in just nine months, and is part of a 2.4 billion euro fleet expansion programme with five new ships entering service between 2009 and 2012. The Costa Luminosa and Costa Pacifica u named together on June 5, 2009, at a Guinness World Record event u and the Costa Deliziosa will be followed by the sister ships Costa Favolosa, due for delivery in summer 2011, and Costa Fascinosa, which will make a debut in spring of 2012. The five ships' introduction will lead to a 50 per cent increase in capacity for the Costa fleet, which by 2012 will be 16-strong with accommodation for 45,000 guests.

Costa Cruises u together with Aida Cruises, the German brand and affiliate of the group u was the first company to market regular cruises in the Arabian Gulf, turning Dubai into a major cruise destination and contributing to its growth as a tourist resort. Costa Cruises' operations in the region were launched in winter of 2006-07.

u A.M.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Feb 24, 2010
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