Another good year for marinas as demand rises

As Greece increasingly becomes a highly popular international tourism destination, the current economic conditions offer good growth prospects for domestic marina operators, according to the findings of a study by Hellastat SA. The successful hosting of the 2004 Athens Games has certainly contributed to these results, along with a strong advertising campaign launched by the country’s Tourism Ministry and through participation in international tourism exhibitions and events. Officials from the marina operation sector described 2006 as a positive year, having recorded higher sea tourism business and greater numbers of vessels at most mooring facilities. Higher demand came primarily from professional yachting – with sailing boat chartering in Greece becoming increasingly popular in markets such as UK, Netherlands, Germany and Sweden – as well as from large privately owned yachts. According to the Hellenic Professional Yacht Owner Association (EPEST), sales in the chartering segment of vessels with a capacity up to 49 passengers in 2006 rose 100 percent to 150 percent, compared to 2005. In contrast, crewed boat and motorship chartering recorded a lesser rate of growth, at 15 percent to 25 percent. Services offered by a small number of privately operated Greek marinas are almost equal in standard to those of their direct competitors in the Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean, mainly Croatia, Italy and Turkey. Though these countries do not boast the extensive coastlines and numerous islands of Greece, they have built more marinas and offer services of a higher quality. Marinas in competitor countries focus especially on customer reception services and on well-designed sales and promotion models. Croatia, for instance, regarded as Greece’s most serious competitor, currently operates as many as 50 marinas with a total capacity of 13,200 berths plus an additional 4,500 wintering places. A number of effective sea tourism programs and investments have also been implemented in Turkey in recent years. Throughout Greece, there are more than 1,250 ports of all types and classes, but marinas number no more than 30, including those operated by private companies. In addition, state-run marinas are hard to modernize and upgrade, primarily on account of their complex operating system. However, according to Hellastat’s study, a favorable outlook for marinas and sea tourism may be assisted by certain conditions and developments currently facilitating investments in the sector. These include programs for the promotion of alternative forms of tourism, aimed at differentiating Greece’s tourism product from that of its competitors, as well as at extending the tourism season to 12 months a year. In addition, there are certain actions, currently at the planning stage, to further develop sea tourism and upgrade port and marina facilities around the country. Against this background, a -3 billion Funding Protocol was signed in June 2005 between Greece’s Merchant Marine Ministry and the European Investment Bank (EIB). The funds will be used specifically for projects to upgrade port and harbor facilities in the period 2005-2015. According to the latest financial results of the 13 Greek companies operating in this field, 11 firms posted an increase in turnover, pushing the sector’s average growth rate to 19 percent. However, in terms of operating and net results, most suffered losses as a result of high administrative and financial expenses.