Cruise tourism activity is projected to record a 15 percent decline this year as the sector is going through a recession in the Eastern Mediterranean, according to Theodore Kontes, head of the Union of Cruise Ship Owners & Associated Members (EEKFN).
Kontes explained that the domestic uncertainty, the migration crisis and terrorism in neighboring countries, as well as the civil war in Syria and instability in Egypt, Lebanon and Israel, have forced cruise companies and tour operators to change their destinations for 2017.
Even so, estimates suggest cruise tourism revenues will be maintained or even rise this year, although a forecast of 500 million euros appears rather an optimistic target given the current circumstances.
“We are happy to see an increase in the tourism flow to Greece, but we cannot feel certain about further growth as things stand,” Kontes told an event ahead of the 4th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum, which is scheduled to take place at the Megaron Athens International Conference Center on May 23 and 24.
Sector associations say that while Greece may be the only country in the Eastern Med that still offers stability, it is also affected by the negative situation in the region. And although it saw a temporary rise in cruise passenger visits in 2015, reaching 4.176 million, the problems in neighboring Turkey – Greece’s partner in cruise tourism packages – last year led to a significant decline, a trend that looks set to continue this year too.
In this context, the industry has taken initiatives to cover some of the losses. Kontes said the sector is trying to contain losses from major established markets while striving to bolster traffic from other countries such as China, Russia, India and others in Asia that are showing a keen interest in Greece and are directing tourism groups to this country. A key role in this effort is being played by the port of Piraeus, which posted a significant increase in home porting activity last year.