Falkland Islands anticipates biggest ever cruise season
The Falkland Islands is anticipating a growth of nearly 9% in cruise ship visitors in the coming season, which would make it the destination’s most successful season to date.
The Falkland Islands is anticipating a growth of nearly 9% in cruise ship visitors in the coming season, which would make it the destination’s most successful season to date. Almost 68,000 cruise ship passengers are expected to visit the Falkland Islands during the coming summer season between October 2008 and April 2009, according to statistics from the Falkland Islands Tourist Board (FITB).
This significant increase in planned arrivals is part of a larger growth pattern. The latest figures indicate that passenger numbers have grown by an average of 15% per annum for eight consecutive seasons – comparing favorably with global growth of just 8% per annum. The capacity for next season has increased and developments in infrastructure for the new season include a new shelter erected at the Jetty Visitors Center in the captial, Stanley, making it more comfortable for cruise visitors while they are waiting for their tours and tenders.
The season this year starts on October 20 with a visit from the NG Endeavour, and ends on April 7, 2009. Vessels calling at the Falklands include Star Princess, Norweigan Sun and Minerva. Each year thousands of tourists make the journey to the Falklands onboard a cruise ship or expedition vessel. This increasingly popular method of travel allows people to visit many sites that remain largely inaccessible to land-based tourists in the Falklands, all from the comfort and safety of a world-class vessel.
A wide variety of shore excursions and tours are available for passengers to experience the unique wildlife and fascinating history of the Islands. These include a trip to Bluff Cove Lagoon in a 4WD vehicle, where visitors can stroll along the white sandy beach, home to 1,000 breeding pairs of gentoo penguins and a growing colony of king penguins and chicks, or watch the sea lions and dolphins often seen swimming in the surf. Visitors can also take part in tours to Volunteer Point, a cornucopia of bird activity and home to king, gentoo and magellanic penguins, as well as waterfowl and endemic subspecies like the dark-faced ground tyrant, Falkland pipit and thrush. Historical tours are also popular with cruise visitors, who can visit the sites made famous by the battles of the 1982 conflict, such as Mount Tumbledown and Wireless Ridge.
Tourism is the Falklands’ fastest-growing industry and the second largest industry behind fisheries in terms of contribution to GDP (gross domestic product). The industry is experiencing strong annual growth in visitor numbers from the UK primarily due to the increased popularity of Antarctic cruise ship tourism. Land-based tourism is also growing, along with the number of independent travelers visiting the Islands. Many choose to combine their Falklands itinerary with a stopover in South America. These individuals range from busy professionals to ornithologists, biologists, wildlife enthusiasts, photographers, as well as recreational anglers and hikers with a sense of adventure. Key activities in the Islands include 4WD wildlife excursions, recreational fishing for sea trout, battlefield tours, hiking, wreck diving, photography, and general wildlife watching.
Commenting on the positive prospects for the coming season, Jake Downing, Falkland Islands Tourist Board general manager said, “We are delighted to be expecting so many visitors to the Falklands in the coming season, and we are sure it will be an unforgettable experience for them. It is extremely encouraging that despite the current economic climate, the cruise market here is so buoyant. This demonstrates the growing popularity of the Falkland Islands as an integral part of cruise and tourist visitors’ itineraries.”
He addded, “We firmly believe in the importance of understanding our market and are, therefore, in the process of conducting Focus Groups in the UK, with one of the aims being to try and gauge an understanding of how much the current economic situation is affecting their travel plans. I think the information will be incredibly useful to the tourist board an industry for our future planning.”