BUSINESS

Cruise visitors set to rise by 15 pct in 2015

By Nikos Roussanoglou

Cruise tourism officials are expecting the number of passengers visiting Greece to increase by about 15 percent in 2015 compared with this year, given the data compiled to date.

Industry insiders are anticipating that the number of passengers coming to Greek ports aboard cruise liners next year will rise from 2.1 to 2.3 million, although the figure forecast for 2014 is the same as that for last year. This is because most cruise companies are focusing their routes on the US and other traditional destinations instead of Europe and the Mediterranean, mainly as a result of the negative economic climate in Europe last year.

However, the picture is set to change considerably in 2015, as the improvement in the European economy’s prospects has already led to the return of cruise companies to the Mediterranean, and Greece in particular, thanks to the recovery of the country’s economy. In addition, an annual survey carried out by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) showed that the Greek market proved to be the third most popular in Europe behind Italy and Spain in 2013.

Kyriakos Anastasiadis, chief executive officer at Louis Cruises, told Kathimerini that the prospects for the sector’s further growth are very positive, although Greece will mostly remain a transit destination and not a homeporting choice for international cruise companies.

“The objective is to extend the transit routes so that the cruise ships don’t just call at three or four ports but more. This will generate much bigger revenues for local economies than today,” he said. For that to happen, however, the infrastructure of a number of popular island ports needs to be revamped, although the situation has shown a significant improvement in the last few years. Works at a multitude of ports across the country are expected to be completed by 2015.

Louis Cruises has added eight new destinations to its routes for this year, including Ios, Milos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Symi. The company is forecasting a 25 percent increase in the number of overnight stays by passengers this year compared with 2013, which is very significant given that the vast majority of Louis’s cruises start from the port of Piraeus, accounting for almost 90 percent of homeporting in Greece.

It is also worth noting that the company’s opening to Latin America in the last three years has resulted in 15 percent of its passengers coming from that region, thanks to cooperation with local travel agencies that promote cruise tourism in the Mediterranean.

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