Βy A. Tsimplakis
The gradual “reopening” of eastern Mediterranean tourism destinations is apparently improving prospects for the Greek cruise sector for the coming season, as 2019 is projected to witness an increase from 2018’s numbers and a significant hike from a dismal 2017 season.
Cruise ship arrivals were down by 20 percent in 2017, compared to 2016.
The coming season looms as promising due to the fact that Turkey is slowly re-emerging as a cruise ship destination, following several years of essentially “falling off the map” in terms of the specific holiday package.
The development also serves Greece well, as east Mediterranean cruise itineraries have, in the past, been bundled together to include both neighboring countries. Egyptian and Israeli destinations, added to the classic Greece-Turkey packages, are also expected to lure more vessels and the holiday-makers they carry.
As such, the Union of Cruise Ship Owners & Associated members (EEKFN) has revised its forecasts for 2019 upwards, from 2 to 3 percent, compared to 2018, to 6 to 8 percent.
According to union president Theodore Kontes, who spoke to “N” this week, Turkish officials followed a “pro-active” policy to lure back tour operators, such as rebates on port fees, depending on the time of the year, the number of passengers off-loaded and the number of dockings. Istanbul is also returning to the forefront as a home port, using low fees for docking and services as well as its air hub dominance.
Conversely, Kontes bemoaned that Greek destinations face port cost hikes and marginal improvement in services.