The number of cruise passengers arriving in Malta in May dropped by 56.9 percent to 32,132 compared to May 2008, the NSO said today.

Embarkations from and landings in Malta stood at 1,185 and 1,138 persons respectively.

The acting general manager of cruise terminal operator Viset, Stephen Xuereb, said the drops were not unexpected. He said that two major cruise lines, Costa and MSC, had this year started cruises to Malta late because of the replacement of the ships with brand new, and larger, vessels. Furthermore, Malta had been hit by a decision taken by Pullmantur and Ibero Cruceros to concentrate around the Iberian Peninsula because of rising fuel prices.

However Mr Xuereb said Viset was already taking bookings for 2010 and it looked like being a good year, at least on the level of 2008.

The NSO said total cruise passenger traffic in Malta since January amounted to 101,879, a decrease of 22.4 per cent over the comparative period last year. Passengers from EU countries accounted for 64.1 per cent of total traffic, the main markets being Germany, the United Kingdom and France. A significant drop was registered in the Italian and Spanish markets.

On the other hand, cruise passengers coming from non-EU countries registered an increase of 50.6 per cent, with significant increases in the American market.

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