As cruise traffic has dropped off dramatically in the Eastern Mediterranean, key port and government stakeholders in Greece are hoping tourism from China and public-private partnerships help their bounce-back. Cruise lines joined with ports and government officials at the Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum, which is taking place this week in Athens.
“Greece needs to start thinking out of the box and try to promote the authentic and the unconventional, look beyond the iconic traditional destinations and create new, alternative products." - Larry Pimental, president and CEO, Azamara Club Cruises
“Santorini and Mykonos are not the only great Greek destinations and Greece needs to promote more destinations, especially through social media, which does not require an increased budget,” said Michel Nestour, vice president, global port and destination development, Carnival Corp.
At the Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum, the Greek government signaled its intent to adopt a public private partnership model drive to help port and airlift improvements. Greek Minister of Shipping and Insular Policy, Panagiotis Kouroumplis said that Greece is prepared to launch a concessions campaign in order to encourage international cruise lines operating in Greece to invest in relevant infrastructure projects.
As far as the cruise lines attending and presenting, it comes down to where the passengers want to go.
“Guests tell us where to deploy our ships as we need to take our vessels where revenue opportunities make our business financially viable,” said Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises.
And while Azamara has two ships in Europe this summer and next, that will be completely revamped in 2019 as the company puts 50 percent of summer capacity into the Alaska cruise market.
“Greece needs to start thinking out of the box and try to promote the authentic and the unconventional, look beyond the iconic, traditional destinations and create new, alternative products that offer fresh, innovative, deeper connections for cruise line guest,” added Pimental.
Meanwhile, in Athens, the port authority has launched a new state-of-the-art berth reservation system that has been well received by cruise lines.
Pullmantur’s President and CEO Richard Vogel said the company had removed Marmaris from itineraries until further notice, citing security concerns.
“Greece has the advantage of political stability and if it works hard to reinvent its offering, invest in its infrastructure and diversify its product portfolio it has a great chance to grow its homeporting and guest volumes. The question remains what Greece will do to maintain the extra business it now enjoys, when Turkey and the other countries of the region open again for business,” Vogel said.
Kristijan Pavic, speaking as president of MedCruise, said: “Greece needs to invest in capacity and efficiency issues in terms of port infrastructure and operational efficacy as well as promote its offerings to the emerging Chinese market”
Emre Sayin, CEO, Global Ports Holding, said ports need to meet the demand of the upcoming capacity increase the industry is expecting.
“So investment in ports is essential to improve efficiency, passenger flow, health and other facilities and for this to happen successfully, a detailed traffic impact analysis and destination improvement plan is a prerequisite," he said.