The state’s failure to develop new cruise tourism destinations and to protect existing ones from saturation, combined with the absence of major international players from cruise routes to and from Turkey, brought another recessionary year for the Greek sector in 2018. However, data on cruiser arrivals in Piraeus last year point to a likely increase.
Cruise tourism arrivals at Greek ports last year showed a marginal expansion to 4,788,642, from 4,625,363 in 2017. However, the number of cruise ship visits dropped to 3,410 from 3,415 a year earlier. Takings from cruise tourism, moreover, continued to decline last year, with the latest data from the Bank of Greece for the period from January to October 2018 showing that they came to 415 million euros and are not expected to top the 2017 figure of 425 million euros. At the start of the decade, takings had amounted to almost 500 million euros per year, though this appeared to have occurred exclusively due to unrest in the northern African markets.
In contrast, the crisis in Turkey – from the terrorist attacks to the failed coup attempt – also damaged Greece, as the neighboring country tends to constitute a supplementary destination to Greece for cruise routes. Nevertheless, Turkey’s recovery – as the country currently subsidizes foreign cruise companies for the visitors they bring – will take some time to take Greece on board, as cruise companies plan their new routes two or even three years ahead.
Even so, Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) has managed to secure an increase in confirmed arrivals of cruise liners this year, with 605 from 524 in 2018 (up 15.8 percent), the majority of which (372) will use Piraeus for home porting, 44 percent more than last year’s 257 routes.
The big issue, according to experts, remains that Greece’s marketing has failed to develop new destinations so as to hold on to entire itineraries within the country, in spite of complaints by cruise operators. A comment by one leading US company official is indicative: “How much more Myconos and Santorini are we supposed to sell and how can we bring ships calling at just those and two or three more destinations with high demand?”
Official data show that the list of popular destinations has remained practically identical since 2010, topped by Piraeus, Santorini and Corfu.