ECONOMY

Cruisers could bring in 2 billion euros a year

Greece is among the Mediterranean?s most popular cruise destinations, absorbing 17 percent of visitors to European ports in a constantly-expanding global market of more than 20 million tourists.

Nevertheless, the benefits from the sector to Greece?s economy remain low, as the country reaped just 4 percent — or 600 million euros — of the 15 billion euros in profits generated by the cruise industry on a European level in 2011.

According to a recent study on the cruise sector in Greece and Europe conducted by the National Bank of Greece, ?the main reason why Greece has not succeeded in earning more from cruises is the limited use of Greeks ports as points of departure.?

Greek ports, the study says, serve mainly as ports of call and not as home ports, meaning that the expenses made by passengers as well as cruise companies in the country are low. Cruise companies usually use home ports as bases from which they procure fuel, food and other equipment, as well as for carrying out much of their ships? maintenance. Moreover, the National Bank of Greece study estimated that tourists make an average of 300 euros of expenses per person at home ports, compared to the just 60 euros they spend at ports of call. More specifically, many passengers fly to the home port from their countries and will pay for accommodation and food as they wait for their cruise to depart.

In contrast, visitors only spend a short period of time at ports of call, meaning that their expenses are mostly limited to food, souvenir purchases and sightseeing.

The study estimates that if two-thirds of cruise passengers visiting Greece were to set off from a Greek home port — and even if international demand were to remain stable — the total annual revenues for the country could surpass 1.2 billion euros for 2016, from 600 million euros? worth of revenues in 2011.

The National Bank of Greece further estimates that if international demand were to increase (along the lines of projections that in 2016 the number of cruise passengers around the world will climb to 30 million from 20 million in 2011) and home porting in Greece were to become more prolific (with two-thirds of visitors to Greece setting off from a Greek port), then total annual revenues could skyrocket in 2016 to around the 2-billion-euro level. It is also estimated that a boost in direct revenues from cruises could also contribute toward generating as many as 30,000 new jobs by 2016.

Cruises on a European level, the study noted, are experiencing dynamic growth, with total direct revenues in 2011 amounting to 15 billion euros from 8.5 billion euros in 2005. Italy is the greatest beneficiary of the trend, as it has reaped 30 percent of these revenues. Spain has generated revenues of 9 percent of the total and Greece just 4 percent.

The most popular cruise destinations worldwide are the Caribbean Islands and the Mediterranean, which together account for 60 percent of cruise passengers. In the past five years, however, the Mediterranean?s share of cruise traffic has been on the rise, reaching 21 percent in 2009, compared to 15 percent in 2004.