Cruise ship sector ‘satisfactory’ in 2016; ‘clouds’ appear over 2017 season, port association says

5 January 2017
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2016 was judged as a satisfactory year for the cruise ship tourism sector in Greece, although the first “shadows” are appearing over prospects for the 2017 season, according to results of a presentation on Wednesday by the Union of Greek Ports’ (ELIME) leadership.

According to figures presented by the group, which were collected from port authority members, associated port funds — active in smaller ports and harbors — and local coast guard offices where ELIME does not have members or observers, the number of cruise ship arrivals in 2016 reached 4,290, as opposed to 4,281 in 2015. A small increase was also noted in the number of cruise ship passenger arrivals, which was up by 5 percent, yoy.

Specifically, arrivals reached 5.197 million in 2016, up from 4.957 million in 2015.

Of course, ELIME officials reminded that cruise ships dock at a handful of ports during a journey, with the aforementioned figures entailing multiple recordings of the same passengers.

The Ionian island of Corfu posted its best performance in five years in terms of cruise ship visits, with Souda Bay on Crete, as well as the islands of Zakynthos and Kythira also posting noteworthy increases.

The small but historic harbor of Lavrio, southeast of Athens on the tip of Attica prefecture, also continued its upward course in terms of home porting, given that it offers an economic and less hectic alternative to Piraeus, the country’s largest and busiest port. Piraeus is part of the greater Athens area’s urban sprawl.

Conversely, decreases were seen at the ports of Kefallonia (Cephalonia), Volos and Patmos. The most negative results were recorded by the ports of Mytilene, on the island of Lesvos, and Kos, two eastern Aegean destinations hit hard by the Third World refugee / migrant flows that originate from the opposite Turkish coast.

In terms of the coming season, ELIME officials told reporters that information they’ve collected so far from port authorities, travel agents and professionals in the cruise sector that receive pre-bookings, point to negative developments for the sector in Greek waters.

Fewer arrivals by vessels and less passenger traffic is a possibility linked to continued destabilization in the wider region (Turkey, Middle East), officials said, as well as increased competition from new global cruise destinations in the Far East, Australia etc.

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