London will be getting its own cruise terminal in three years, offering a new opportunity for cruise passengers to see and head away from the UK capital. Cruise News caught up with the newly-appointed CEO Kate O’Hara, who has only been in her job since last week and will lead the development of the port.
Congratulations on the new role Kate. Does your appointment mark the next step in the port’s development?
Planning permission has already been approved, so the next stage of delivering the terminal is a really exciting milestone. Capable of handling the largest cruise ships which can sail through the Thames Barrier, this terminal located between the O2 Arena and the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage site is in a fantastic location, right in the heart of Greenwich, London.
Do you have experience in running a port?
I was responsible for the commercial and marketing activities at the port of Dover for 11 years. Cruise was just a part of my role there but was a real success story, experiencing strong growth. I have gained vast experience from this role and but also from my involvement with CruiseBritain, of which I am currently chair. I have also recently been elected on the Council of Management for Cruise Europe.
Will you continue to hold the CruiseBritain role?
Yes I will remain as chair, certainly until the end of the year. I have held the role for four years now and is due for re-election early next year.
CruiseBritain is a joint initiative between the cruise industry, CLIA UK & Ireland, and Visit Britain and focuses on raising the profile of Britain as a world class cruise destination.
Also with my involvement in Cruise Europe it also provides a European industry perspective. This body represents over 100 ports and is an opportunity to debate and discuss issues within the industry. It is a marketing organisation similar to CruiseBritain but there is a lobbying aspect too.
These membership organisations recognise that the port should not work in isolation but with other service providers and destinations to support ports on a joint effort in promoting the area to the itinerary planners of the cruise line. We deliver a high level of service and experiences and promote the diversity that there is available both in the UK and Europe. We have seen increases in cruise numbers to the UK recently because of this collaborative approach.
What has the reaction been like since the launch was announced?
It has been very much welcomed and I know it will be a success.
As part of CruiseBritain I am already aware of the benefits of cruise tourism in the UK. In 2012 there was an 11% increase in day calls to UK ports, bringing a record 723,000 passengers. More people are also starting their cruise from a UK port; up 10% year-on-year in 2012 compared to 2011 and 84% of these 962,000 passengers were British.
I’m really looking forward to working with Royal Greenwich to grow and develop the port and welcome cruise ships and new visitors to the area.
What does this cruise terminal mean for London tourism?
From the London perspective this is quite an important development. Royal Borough of Greenwich council is looking forward to the development and recognise how it will raise the profile as a global cruise destination and provide a boost to the economy. We hope a scheduled river bus service will operate year-round to connect the north and south and allow passengers to see different parts of the city and benefit both tourists and commuters.
When will the terminal open and what ship types can it handle?
This is the first purpose-built terminal for the capital. Our planned opening is in early 2016. It is being built to easily accommodate 3,000 passengers embarking and disembarking at one time. The port will offer turnaround and transit options and with the connections available people will easily be able to get to London and the port. There is the choice to walk or get a river taxi to the main attractions.
It will be able to welcome ships up to 240 metres in length and we expect the port will accommodate up to 100 ships per annum.
Have you purposefully targeted the luxury market when marketing the port?
Yes, the luxury ships are a natural fit for a port this size, but not exclusively, as there are other cruise ships that are also well suited here.
There are so many brands and the cruise market is quite varied so there is plenty of opportunity for further development.
When it comes to launching the port, will there be a trade element to your strategy?
Yes we will certainly look to appeal to all markets including the travel trade.
We are planning on hosting fam trips nearer the time for the media and officials to witness the development first hand.
I am also keen to use social media during the launch to excite our target audience and raise awareness during that time as this is such a wonderful development for the market.