22 October 2017
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Greek cruise sector has a great potential ahead

Κυριάκος Αναστασιάδης

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Antulio Richetta

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Greece has a great opportunity to take advantage of tourist demand because of recent developments in Turkey, but needs to develop home porting to safeguard a further growth of the sea cruise sector in the country, Kyriakos Anastasiadis, chief executive of Celestyal Cruises said on Monday.

 

In interview with Greek news agency, Anastasiadis said Celestyal Cruises plans to add new destinations in its schedule for 2018, such as Pylos, Kalamata, Zakynthos, Cephalonia, Corfu, Igoumenitsa, along with ports in Albania and Montenegro.

He said that a total of 17,000 Greeks chose to have a sea cruise holiday this year, up from 13,000 in 2015 and stressed that home porting growth was based on two legs: first, the development of basic infrastructure in six ports to be able to accommodate new generation sea cruise vessels and the second, a long-term leasing and developing of specific port operations with sea cruise companies based on an offset measures agreement.

He noted that Celestyal Cruises has recommended this alternative model to Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund for the port of Lavrio, but without any developments on the issue so far. Commenting on the official take over of management of Piraeus port by Chinese COSCO, Anastasiadis said a "tested and successful model" of large European ports should be followed and to have a closer cooperation with municipal authorities to resolve any problems in the accommodation of sea cruise passengers.

He noted that Celestyal Cruises' top priority was to preserve job positions despite a prevailing difficult economic environment and particularly to preserve the quality of services.

"The crisis has forced us to be very careful with what we do but at the same time it gave us an excellent opportunity to promote our product right and focusing on each passenger needs," he said, adding that in order to maintain a stable pricing policy, the company chose instead of offering a menu with 30 different food to offer a menu of 20 food plates of high quality. "Greeks have finally realized that sea cruise is one of the most affordable and comfortable ways for holidays," Anastasiadis said.

He stressed that geopolitical developments in the eastern borders of Greece negatively affected sea cruise and tourism in general as foreign visitors -particularly from far away countries such as Americans, Canadians, Australians and Asians- are reluctant to buy a holiday package that will also include Turkey. "We have strong messages that in 2017, tourists from the US market wishing to visit Greece will be able to buy alternative tourist packages without any Turkish destinations," he said.

He noted that most airlines should re-examine their ticket policy to Greece to boost tourism in the country. Celestyal Cruises will include Nafplio and Chania in its schedule for 2017 and for 2018 the company plans to offer three- and four-day cruises also in the Ionian Sea, with possible new destinations the ports of Pylos, Kalamata, Zakynthos, Cephalonia, Igoumenitsa, Corfu, Sarande in Albania and Kotor in Montenegro. Anastasiadis said a Greek sea cruise commission, bringing together municipal authorities, port managements and representatives of sea cruise companies, could contribute to resolve several issues related with sea cruise industry in the country.

Commenting on home porting, he said that a national sea cruise commission must draft a strategic plan to determine which six ports should develop infrastructure -beyond Piraeus- capable of accomodating new generation sea cruise vessels. Anastasiadis said there were two choices on how to invest in port infrastructure. Either the state secured these funds through European programs, or to sign concession contracts with sea cruise companies.

"We have recommended this model for the port of Lavrio and I believe that other companies will also follow. As a sea cruise company we will develop the necessary infrastructure on a part of the port, using our own money, in the form of long-term leasing, while the property will remain at the hands of the state," he said.

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