Following the recent formation of an integrated national strategy for the development of the cruise and yachting sectors, Greece is today well-positioned to further build on its continuously increasing number of international tourists who currently stand at 28 million annually, according to Elena Kountoura, Minister of Tourism, speaking at the 4th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum.
The privatisation of Greek marinas was a key topic of discussion on the second day of the forum, with government officials and representatives from the private sector agreeing that many steps in the right direction have been made, but that plenty still needs to be achieved in order to help the country realise its full potential.
During his speech, Stergios Pitsiorlas, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Economy & Development, said: “The Greek government is committed to supporting the growth of sea tourism in Greece through a series of measures that include the privatisation of marinas in Alimos, Chios, Argostoli and Kalamaria through the concession model.”
He added: “In partnership with port authorities in various locations around Greece, planning for the development of new marinas through the public private partnership model will be finalised this summer.”
It was pointed out that Greece lags behind other countries in the Eastern Mediterranean such as Turkey and Croatia, which have already embarked on a strategic transformation of their own yachting sector and marina infrastructure development.
“Greece must renew its framework of establishing and operating tourist ports,” Stavros Katsikadis, president of the Greek Marinas Association, told the forum. “A reasonable and stable tax and regulatory regime would help attract investments by reducing legal risks.”
The cruise sector was also in focus during the forum’s second and final day with top international and regional representatives of the industry adding their own unique perspectives.
According to Ukko Metsola, vice president of Royal Caribbean Cruises, the absolute number of cruise travellers sourced from Asia has nearly tripled since 2012 and this presents the East Med with a great growth opportunity. “Asia is the world’s fastest-growing market and China is the main driver of the continent’s outbound tourism market with an estimated annual 120 million Chinese tourists flooding global destinations each year,” he said.
“With 2018 earmarked as the European Union-China tourism year, the opportunity for the Eastern Mediterranean to position itself as a key cruise destination for Chinese tourists is today more important than ever before,” he added.
Innovative marketing could hold the answers to many of the challenges stifling the East Med region’s growth as the adverse geopolitical conditions continue unabated, according to Erkunt Oner from Turkey’s Tourism Investors Association.
The 4th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum is organised under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy and is supported by organisations including the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, the Hellenic Port Association (ELIME), the Hellenic Professional Yacht Owners Association, the Greek Marinas Association and the Hellenic Association of Travel & Tourist Agencies (HATTA).
By David Robinson