BUSINESS

Fewer passenger arrivals as cruise ships give Aegean a miss

STATHIS KOUSOUNIS

TAGS: Tourism, Economy

There has been a dramatic decrease in the number of passengers on cruise ships visiting Greek ports, according to the latest available data. The numbers suggest that the instability in Turkey has led to fewer cruises in the Aegean.

The port of Iraklio on Crete is a case in point. Between January and July this year, there was a 39.4 percent drop in the number of passengers and a 28.4 percent decline in the number of cruise liners docking there.

CEO of 5 Senses Consulting & Development Yiannis Bras, who specializes in the development of tourism linked to cruise ships, notes the low occupancy rates for the vessels, which came to 72.6 percent. This is a development that runs counter to the hope that the government had tried to cultivate when it suggested that the lower number of vessels coming to Greece would be counterbalanced by higher occupancy rates on those stopping at Greek destinations.

On Rhodes, cruise liner passenger arrivals were down by 10.9 percent in the first six months of the year, dropping to 98,127. July arrivals were down 34 percent on a year earlier. This month, it is expected that about 30 cruise ships will visit the island, compared to 49 in August last year.

Santorini is also expecting a 24 percent decrease in the number of cruise ship arrivals this month.

According to Bras, one of the first steps that has to be taken to revive cruise ship tourism is for a strategic plan to be drawn up by the Greek government in association with Fraport, the German-led consortium that manages 14 Greek regional airports, to reconnect with German cruise companies.

Representatives of the cruise industry had been warning of potential problems since last autumn. These concerns seem to be justified as the figures so far this year suggest. Industry insiders also expect that the numbers for 2018 will be similar to those seen this year.

One of the main reasons for the reduced activity this year is that companies have omitted Turkish ports from their itineraries for security reasons. This means that they are also skipping Greek ports that were on those routes.

In 2016, Greece had benefited from the instability in the neighboring country as cruise firms which did not want to cancel at the last minute replaced Turkish ports with Greek ones. That helped cruise ship passenger arrivals reach 5.2 million, up from 4.9 million a year earlier.

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