Greek Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis delivers a speech at the fourth Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum in Athens, Greece on May 23, 2017. Greece is open for cruise industry business, Greek Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis said on Tuesday when addressing the fourth Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum in Athens. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Greece is open for cruise industry business, Greek Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis said on Tuesday when addressing the fourth Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum in Athens.
Infrastructure improvements at the country's ports and China's vast potential are holding a key role to success, according to top representatives of the industry from across the world who attended the two-day event on the prospects of the cruise industry in the East Mediterranean.
"The shipping ministry in cooperation with the tourism ministry attempts to open new roads in dynamic sectors of tourism, such as the cruise industry. The cruise sector is one of the most crucial sectors for us as we seek to make the most of its potential. It is a sector which, I want to stress, is a priority for the (Greek) state," Kouroumblis said at the opening session.
Although the tourism industry has been traditionally one of the strongest pillars of the Greek economy, shortages in port infrastructure have not allowed Greece to reach its full potential when it comes to attract more cruise guests, Greek officials and sea tourism decision makers noted.
Greece will launch a concessions campaign to encourage investments in port and air infrastructure required to help the country optimize its full potential as a destination of choice for global cruise liners and passengers, Kouroumblis said on Tuesday.
China's COSCO SHIPPING plans for the modernization of Piraeus port have been hailed from all sides as an exemplary case of infrastructure development which will allow Greece to attract and keep in the long term the visitors who have turned their backs on other East Mediterranean countries due to tensions.
"Greece is such an important cruise destination, but we need to prepare Greece for the future, because the change in vessels' size over the next years to come I think it is important to mention that infrastructure needs to grow as well. We need to enhance port development," Tom Fecke, secretary general of the Cruise Lines International Association(CLIA) Europe told the forum.
With just two percent of the global population having ever taken a cruise, and a vast potential of it in Asia and China in particular, Greece must reach out to China and promote itself as a destination in great detail and differentiate it from other neighboring destinations, Fecke advised the Greek hosts.
George Gratsos, president of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, urged for closer cooperation between states and companies to the benefits of all.
"I believe the cruise industry should create the necessary synergies so that the countries involved as destinations benefit more," he said, noting that the benefit from cruise for Greece so far has been very small.
While the benefit from the cruise industry today in Italy is 460 U.S. dollars per passenger and Spain 144 dollars per passenger, in Greece the amount stands at only 45 dollars, Gratsos said.