De­cline in cruise lin­ers and pas­sen­gers this year

Kathimerini English - - Focus - STATHIS KOUSOUNIS

There has been a dra­matic de­crease in the number of pas­sen­gers on cruise ships vis­it­ing Greek ports, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est avail­able data. The num­bers sug­gest that the in­sta­bil­ity in Turkey has led to fewer cruises in the Aegean.

The port of Irak­lio on Crete is a case in point. Be­tween Jan­uary and July this year, there was a 39.4 per­cent drop in the number of pas­sen­gers and a 28.4 per­cent de­cline in the number of cruise lin­ers dock­ing there.

CEO of 5 Senses Con­sult­ing & De­vel­op­ment Yiannis Bras, who spe­cial­izes in the de­vel­op­ment of tourism linked to cruise ships, notes the low oc­cu­pancy rates for the ves­sels, which came to 72.6 per­cent. This is a de­vel­op­ment that runs counter to the hope that the gov­ern­ment had tried to cul­ti­vate when it sug­gested that the lower number of ves­sels com­ing to Greece would be coun­ter­bal­anced by higher oc­cu­pancy rates on those stop­ping at Greek des­ti­na­tions.

On Rhodes, cruise liner pas­sen­ger ar­rivals were down by 10.9 per­cent in the first six months of the year, drop­ping to 98,127. July ar­rivals were down 34 per­cent on a year ear­lier. This month, it is ex­pected that about 30 cruise ships will visit the is­land, com­pared to 49 in Au­gust last year.

Santorini is also ex­pect­ing a 24 per­cent de­crease in the number of cruise ship ar­rivals this month.

Ac­cord­ing to Bras, one of the first steps that has to be taken to re­vive cruise ship tourism is for a strate­gic plan to be drawn up by the Greek gov­ern­ment in as­so­ci­a­tion with Fra­port, the Ger­man-led con­sor­tium that man­ages 14 Greek re­gional air­ports, to re­con­nect with Ger­man cruise com­pa­nies.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the cruise in­dus­try had been warn­ing of po­ten­tial prob­lems since last au­tumn. Th­ese con­cerns seem to be jus­ti­fied as the fig­ures so far this year sug­gest. In­dus­try in­sid­ers also ex­pect that the num­bers for 2018 will be sim­i­lar to those seen this year.

One of the main rea­sons for the re­duced ac­tiv­ity this year is that com­pa­nies have omit­ted Turk­ish ports from their itin­er­ar­ies for se­cu­rity rea­sons. This means that they are also skip­ping Greek ports that were on those routes. In 2016, Greece had ben­e­fited from the in­sta­bil­ity in the neigh­bor­ing coun­try as cruise firms which did not want to can­cel at the last minute re­placed Turk­ish ports with Greek ones. That helped cruise ship pas­sen­ger ar­rivals reach 5.2 mil­lion, up from 4.9 mil­lion a year ear­lier.

Cruise ships are by­pass­ing the Aegean.

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