The first-ever session of a mostly state-dominated coordination committee for the cruise ship sector on Wednesday identified six obstacles blocking the full exploitation of this type of high-value tourism product in the eastern Mediterranean.
The six “obstacles" cited by the committee include the terrorism risk emanating from the Middle East, the ongoing economic crisis in much of Europe, the migrant crisis that especially plagues Greece, still imposed capital controls in Greece, Brexit, and more recently, the latest political instability in Turkey due to a coup attempt earlier this month.
Greek tourism operators and professionals on island destinations have long considered cruises as a high-end tourism product, with the difficulties in the past mostly emanating from the Greek state and a “closed shop” mentality by related unions.
Nevertheless, all of the representatives that participated at the meeting emphasized that regardless of whatever external factors – or the “internal” capital controls – at the current juncture, an organized effort can boost the number of cruises beginning in Greek home ports or plying Greek waters.
On the plus side, the recent awarding of the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) to Chinese multinational Cosco bodes well for the sector, as the Shanghai-based company has promised to boost investments in order to turn Piraeus into the biggest commercial and passenger port in the Mediterranean.
According to figures released by the Union of Greek Ports (ELIME), the number of cruise ships that docked at Greek ports increased by 12 percent in 2015, from 2014, reaching 4,281. The Bank of Greece (BoG) cited a 9.9-percent increase in the number of visitors arriving from cruises in 2015, as well as a 10.2-percent increase in the revenues from cruise ship passengers – in comparison to 2014.