Recognizing it’s great potential, the Greek government has pledged to further develop the country’s cruise industry and sea tourism generally. However, at the same time the government and the industry also acknowledge achieving this potential will require great effort.
“Cruise tourism is a key to the government’s overall policy,” said Pavlos Geroulanos, Culture and Tourism minister at The Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum, which opened in Athens June 21 and was attended by more than 400 delegates, including representatives of the Greek and Foreign governments, senior business leaders from the cruise industry and destination representatives.
“Steps to upgrade and boost sea tourism are already being taken, but a lot still has to be done,” said Yeroulanos, adding, “the Eastern Mediterranean could become the epicentre for the country’s economy” but “investment is needed for this to happen”.
Pictured, from left to right: Yiorgos Anomeritis, Chairman & Managing Director, Piraeus Port Authority S.A., Pierfrancesco Vago, CEO MSC Cruises, Vice-Chairman European Cruise Council, Andreas A. Andreadis, President, Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, Gianni Onorato, President , Costa Crociere, Costakis Loizou, Executive Chairman, Louis Group
Indeed, the potential for sea tourism and its significance as a key factor in the development of the economies of Greece, the East Mediterranean and the Black Sea is there for all to see, according to lead-off speakers at The Posidonia Forum, which gathered together some 400 representatives from the world’s cruise, sea tourism and media. The June 21 / 22 forum is being held in the Onassis Cultural Centre.
Yeroulanos added that the easing of cabotage in the Greek cruise industry has already had results with the number of cruise ships calling in Greece increasing.
“The Western Mediterranean has traditionally been the place where the money wanted to be, but the Eastern Mediterranean has so much more to offer, it has history, culture, the best sailing, 1,000 islands. Indeed, from Venice to Beirut it is the best play ground in the world.”
While the leaders of the European cruise industry welcomed the government’s commitment they underlined cruising is founded on stability. Planning is made some 24 months in advance and this depends on a sound framework.
“We need Greece to have a stable regulatory framework and efficient business climate,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, Vice- Chairman European Cruise Council (ECC) and ceo of MSC Cruises. He welcomed the easing of cabotage, but said current conditions of the contract companies have to sign with the government to be able to homeport in Greece discourage operators.
“Cruise lines do not like a rigid legal framework as companies have to be flexible to meet the wishes of the clients,” said Vago.
He and Gianni Onorato, President, Costa Crociere, said the infrastructure and fee structure have to be examined. Greek ports lacked infrastructure especially to handle large vessels. Both said berthing on a first come first served basis has to go, as you can not have captains of large ships racing to get a berth. They said Greece is the only country in Europe with this system. Berthing is becoming more important as fuel costs force ships to reduce speeds.
Pictured, from left to right: Antonis Stelliatos , President of HPYOA (Hellenic Professional Yacht Owners Association), Yiorgos Anomeritis, Chairman & Managing Director, Piraeus Port Authority S.A., Pavlos Yeroulanos, Minister of Culture & Tourism, George Nikitiades, Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, Themistocles Vokos, Chairman of Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum.
Vago said that despite the advances being made in Greece, there is still “an inward looking and protectionism approach”.
While minister Geroulanos said the tourism industry was the first sector to see the country’s looming financial crisis and was taking steps in May 2009 to counter it by moving to woo markets, Onorato believes, “Greece does not have to look further than Europe for clients”.
“Greece has the opportunity to be a big player. This business offers big opportunities, but too many recognise this after they have lost the opportunity. There is a need for port infrastructure to be upgraded, there is need for privatization and cruise companies can be involved here. There are a lot of beautiful very interesting places within a reasonable distance. Greece, Turkey and Cyprus have a future role in cruising, but certain obstacles have to be eliminated first,” said the president of Costa Crociere, which already brings 2.3m guests to Greece annually.
The Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum is organised under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Islands and Fisheries, the Greek National Tourism Organisation, the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), the Hellenic Professional Yacht Owners’ Association and the Greek Marinas’ Association and is supported by the European Cruise Council and MedCruise. The Posidonia Forum is sponsored by the Piraeus Port Authority, RINA, IPS, Viva.gr, the Hard Rock Café Athens, the Athenaeum Intercontinental Athens, Louis Cruises and ELIN.