Increase in cruise passengers could prove to be short-lived
More than 150,000 additional passengers passed through the port of Piraeus in the first seven months of this year compared with January-July 2015, which constitutes an annual rise of 18.54 percent.
The port’s administration attributes this growth to a series of interventions in the cruise sector, with the implementation of modernization works at the passenger terminals as well as new commercial agreements aimed at wooing more cruise liners, and various actions that are making cruise tourism in Greece more attractive.
In recent months the country has benefited from developments in neighboring Turkey that have raised serious security concerns, which is the main area cruise companies examine before selecting their routes. This year cruise operators have been suspending or canceling planned visits to Turkish ports, with most of them opting to come to Greece instead.
Piraeus Port Authority says that the prospects for further growth in cruise tourism remain particularly positive, given also the expectation that further new direct investments will exceed 135 million euros. Investment will focus on the expansion of infrastructure in the southern part of the port, aimed at rendering Piraeus the biggest cruise port in the Mediterranean. Key to that plan and boosting revenues is the targeted increase in home porting – whereby ships use Piraeus as a base from which to start their cruise itineraries.
The challenge is huge for the Eastern Mediterranean region, as the Association of Cruise Shipowners and Associated Members (EEKFN) stated last week that international cruise operators have canceled some 138 stops at Greek destinations for the next couple of years, which translates into a loss of 330,000 passengers. This has been blamed on the unrest generated in Turkey, which is seen as having tainted all destinations in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cruise companies are reducing their presence in the region, opting instead for new opportunities in the emerging market of Asia.
EEKFN head Thodoros Contes says it is too early to reach any conclusions, “and let us hope that new cruise liners will be added to the Eastern Med. We have also factored in a decline in passengers from Turkey.”