The cruise industry in the Eastern Mediterranean is bracing for a major rebound this year, trying to catch up with the rest of the world, which is all set to experience its best year ever, according to projections presented on the opening day of the 5th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum in Athens on Tuesday.
Global cruise tourism is expected to grow to an unprecedented 30 million passengers this year, up 6 percent on last year’s estimated 28.2 million, said Tom Boardley, the secretary-general of the European branch of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA Europe). He added that the momentum in the industry is expected to take it to 40 million passengers by the late 2020s.
Greece and the East Med in general have seen a slump over the last few years due to political concerns in the broader region. Since those concerns appear to have eased this year, Greece expects year-on-year growth of 7.5 percent in cruise tourism, according to Theodore Vokos, the executive director of forum organizer Posidonia Exhibitions.
Santorini, which received 640,000 cruise passengers in 2017, can expect an increase of up to 20 percent in the next couple of years, said CLIA Europe public affairs representative Maria Deligianni, stressing the association’s efforts to work around the daily cap of 8,000 cruise passengers that the island’s authorities have introduced.
Cyprus has suffered particularly from the cruise tourism slump in the region this decade, with the island’s Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios reporting an 85 percent decline from 2010 to last year. “However, this year we are expecting a 15-20 percent increase, but from a very low starting point,” he told Kathimerini English Edition, adding that the creation of a ministry for tourism in Cyprus this year has helped the country to enhance cooperation with the cruise industry.
The broader East Med region is expected to witness 22.2 percent annual growth in cruise passengers and a 19.8 percent increase in port calls, mainly thanks to restored stability in countries such as Turkey, said Airam Diaz Pastor, the president of MedCruise. His association of Mediterranean cruise ports signed a memorandum of understanding with the Hellenic Ports Association, in the context of the forum.