Where have all the cruise ships gone?

Cyprus needs to act now to save cruise tourism from be­com­ing ex­tinct

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - SHIPPING - By Kyr­i­a­cos Kil­iaris

While stake­hold­ers are try­ing to en­hance Cyprus’ image as an at­trac­tive tourist des­ti­na­tion in the east­ern Mediter­ranean, the only cruise liner de­part­ing from a lo­cal port has been sold, rais­ing ques­tions on the fu­ture of cruise tourism.

A re­cent an­nounce­ment from Salamis Cruises talked of a Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment to sell off the com­pany’s 43year-old ves­sel for a re­ported EUR 3.9 mln.

It is un­der­stood the com­pany will be look­ing into buy­ing an­other ves­sel, but as the Filox­e­nia is the only ship con­duct­ing cruises de­part­ing from Cyprus, there are doubts about the fu­ture of cruise tourism.

In ear­lier times, a num­ber of op­er­a­tors, in­clud­ing Louis Cruise Lines, op­er­ated reg­u­lar cruises from Cypriot ports which of­fered trav­ellers cruises in the east­ern Mediter­ranean, what was re­ferred to as, the trip to three con­ti­nents.

The ships would visit Le­banon, Is­rael and the Holy Lands, Egypt and Turkey, pass­ing through the Greek is­lands.

Louis Cruise Lines suc­ces­sor, Ce­lestyal Cruises Ltd, still runs cruises, but its ships de­part from Pi­raeus port in Greece. Cypri­ots in­ter­ested in book­ing a ticket on a Ce­lestyal cruise will have to fly to Athens and make their way to Pi­raeus port.

A Cyprus Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion of­fi­cial con­firmed to the Fi­nan­cial Mir­ror that if the owner com­pany of Filox­e­nia does not re­place it, then Cyprus will be left with­out a cruise ship per­form­ing routes start­ing from a Cypriot port next year.

Novem­ber 2019 is the next con­crete date for cruises leav­ing from Cyprus.

CTO of­fi­cer Chris­tos Mous­tras said Bri­tish tourist op­er­a­tor TUI will con­duct a se­ries of cruises from Novem­ber next year and again be­tween March and May 2020.

“These cruises are es­ti­mated to bring 19,000 tourists to the is­land,” said Mous­tras, con­firm­ing in­ter­est from tourists to go on cruises in the east­ern Mediter­ranean.

He said these cruises will visit Alanya in Turkey, Ash­dod in Is­rael and Port Said in Egypt, de­part­ing from Li­mas­sol.

Marela Cruises of the TUI Group has an­nounced 13 new des­ti­na­tions leav­ing Li­mas­sol port for the win­ter sea­son 2019-20.

The CTO of­fi­cer said the TUI cruises is a re­minder of the “good old days when we were pro­mot­ing quite a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of cruises which were ‘mak­ing the tour to three con­ti­nents’”.

“Strength­en­ing cruise tourism will open sig­nif­i­cant growth po­ten­tial with mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits for the lo­cal econ­omy, such as the cre­ation of new jobs, an up­grade of in­fra­struc­ture and im­prove­ment of ser­vices,” he said.

Mous­tras said the CTO is cam­paign­ing to con­vince lo­cal and for­eign tour op­er­a­tors to or­gan­ise cruises that de­part from Cyprus.

“Our goal is to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease pas­sen­ger traf­fic through the ports of our coun­try over the com­ing years,” he said.

Sec­tor on its knees

One of the stake­hold­ers which would like to see the state do­ing more is the As­so­ci­a­tion of Cyprus Tourist Agents (ACTA).

Vasilis Sta­mataris, Pres­i­dent of ACTA told the Fi­nan­cial Mir­ror that he ex­pects the state to do more to sup­port the sec­tor which is go­ing through a rough time.

“It has been proven that un­for­tu­nately with­out pri­vate ini­tia­tive, the sec­tor will die out. How­ever, the pri­vate sec­tor needs to be sup­ported,” he said

Sta­mataris said that a de­crease in de­mand cou­pled with high costs has made cruises an un­prof­itable busi­ness.

He said that although Cyprus’ geo­graph­i­cal po­si­tion al­lows easy ac­cess to the ports of Le­banon, Is­rael and Egypt, high in­sur­ance costs im­posed by in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, un­der the pre­text that they op­er­ate in a high-risk re­gion, are bur­den­ing the sec­tor.

He said that the state could help by low­er­ing di­rect and in­di­rect taxes re­lated to tour oper­a­tions.

Sta­mataris did ac­knowl­edge that there is also a lack of cruise ship op­er­a­tors in Cyprus, not­ing that the state and the CTO should pro­vide in­cen­tives for lo­cal op­er­a­tors to set up, or bring in op­er­a­tors from abroad to or­gan­ise cruises from Cyprus.

“The pri­vate sec­tor must be per­suaded to rein­vest in the cruise in­dus­try, es­pe­cially now that des­ti­na­tions such as Egypt are start­ing to re­gain their former glory, with Cairo in­vest­ing fur­ther in their her­itage with the con­struc­tion of a new mu­seum,” said Sta­mataris.

An­other ma­jor stake­holder in ma­rine tourism call­ing for the state to in­ter­vene is the New Li­mas­sol Port op­er­a­tor DP World Li­mas­sol.

The com­pany sees that in or­der to bring back the his­tor­i­cal highs seen in the past, the gov­ern­ment will need to in­tro­duce cruise in­cen­tives as seen in other neigh­bour­ing ports.

“Work­ing in part­ner­ship is a key strand of en­gage­ment as we want our part­ners, stake­hold­ers and the econ­omy to feel the pos­i­tive ef­fects this op­por­tu­nity brings to Cyprus. In­cen­tive pack­ages are im­por­tant el­e­ments to at­tract more cruise lin­ers in Cyprus,” said DP World in a state­ment to the Fi­nan­cial Mir­ror.

DP World has on sev­eral oc­ca­sions said that they aim to in­crease pas­sen­ger traf­fic of Li­mas­sol port by 35%.

Adding to ex­pec­ta­tions, the new pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal of the port opened its gates in May 2018 and was to be a key el­e­ment in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the growth of the cruise tourism in­dus­try.

It has also re­cently launched a new on­line plat­form (www.li­mas­sol­cruise.com) pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion aimed at pro­mot­ing fur­ther the cruise tourism in Cyprus and pro­vid­ing sup­port to cruise pas­sen­gers and com­pa­nies.

DP World Li­mas­sol said that the com­pany’s plans for the pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal and for en­hanc­ing cruise tourism have not been thwarted by re­cent de­vel­op­ments.

“We are dis­cussing with sev­eral cruise lines to es­tab­lish Li­mas­sol as their home port. There are cruise lines such as Ce­lestyal and Marella which are work­ing with us to make this a re­al­ity over the next year,” said the com­pany.

DP World said that its goal is to make Li­mas­sol a home port and an at­trac­tive choice for cruise com­pa­nies thus, boost­ing the tourism in­dus­try and help­ing Cyprus re­gain its lead­ing role in cruise tourism in the Mediter­ranean.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, we aim to make use of the New Pas­sen­ger Ter­mi­nal through­out the year to con­duct ex­hi­bi­tions, con­fer­ences and other ac­tiv­i­ties.”

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