ECONOMY

Cruise sector set to miss the boat

Recent figures suggest that the contribution of the cruise industry to the Greek economy this year would have been much greater if it had been fully deregulated in time.

Arrivals in 2011 reached 2.5 million, up 43.2 percent from 2010. Nevertheless, despite the rise in the number of transit tourists, who totaled 2.06 million, those who used the port of Piraeus as a starting point for a cruise were far fewer at 454,000, but still up 6.6 percent compared to 2010. This number could have been more than doubled if full deregulation had been expedited by the previous government, adding a few hundred million euros to the national economy. The prevarication and delay was mainly due to the frequent blockades of the port by trade unionists in the last two years.

According to international surveys, cruise passengers spend between 30 and 50 euros per person in transit ports, and between 150 and 200 euros in the starting ports of cruises.

Those in the industry expect full deregulation to start bearing substantial fruit after 2014. They project the benefit to the Greek economy at more than 1 billion euros annually, accompanied by the creation of 18,000 new jobs, mainly in service branches of the cruise industry. ?The figures for 2011 are quite satisfactory and prove the cruise industry?s potential. Our market managed to hold its own despite the difficult prevailing conditions, the ongoing recession and the — until recently — unclear legal framework. We are optimistic that 2012 bookings will stay at the same levels and are looking forward to the solution of problems that hold the Greek cruise industry back,? said Andreas Stylianopoulos, vice president of the Association of Passenger Shipping Enterprises.

A total of 936 cruise ships docked at Piraeus in 2011, 13.7 percent more than in 2010. Some at the Piraeus Port Authority, along with agents representing the large cruise operators in Greece, fear that due to political instability the figure this year may be around 15 percent lower.

According to the European Cruise Council, the total number of cruise passengers in 2011 rose 9 percent to 6 million.