ECONOMY

Yacht business concerns

Professional yacht owners are expressing concern about the prospects for tourism traffic from the US market this year, stressing the need for an intensive advertising campaign. The US provides 70 to 80 percent of the sector’s customers. Although there has been a 15-20 percent rise in bookings so far for the coming season, Greek sea tourism has not reached the level it enjoyed before the September 11, 2001 terror attack in the US, says Antonis Stelliatos, the president of the Professional Tourism Yacht Owners’ Association. The situation is worrying due to the appreciation of the euro against the dollar, which has made European tourism destinations more expensive for US visitors. According to Stelliatos, «it is incomprehensible that there are no modern marinas in this country.» Croatia and Turkey, which are direct rivals, have three times as many marinas as Greece, while each country’s coastline amounts to just a third of Greece’s. Marina problems Another problem is that marinas in Attica do not accept professional yachts with a Greek flag as the charges agreed by the Association and the Tourism Development Company (ETA) are not adhered to, with the excuse that profits are not high. As a result, Greek yachts beg around for a mooring spot in marinas just to serve their VIP customers. One of the most significant issues for sea tourism enterprises is the training of crews to secure the upgrading of services offered. The problem will only be resolved through special colleges for training professional yacht crews. Stelliatos adds that the institutional framework for the operation of yachts should become more competitive, through the amendment of laws 2743 and 3182 on professional yachts. He also suggests that there should be equal treatment with that of cruise ships as far as the subsidization of Seamen’s Pension Fund (NAT) contributions is concerned. The sector has also repeatedly called for the inclusion of yacht operators in those enterprises benefiting from the investment incentives law.