Yiannis Evangelou, president of the Hellenic Association of Travel & Tourist Agencies (HATTA), asserted that “Greece underestimates the importance of the international cruise industry and unlike all other Mediterranean destinations and has done little in this direction until now.” This was the conclusion of the press conference held prior to the Seatrade-Hatta cruise forum CRUISEinGREECE last month.
The forum is a joint venture by HATTA and Seatrade -maritime publications, conferences and exhibitions- and aims to promote less visited Greek cruise destinations and position Greece as a hub for international cruise programs. According to the forum organizers, today’s international cruise industry sees Greece as a relatively quick passage that links the west to the east. The cruise forum aims to change this perception and as Mr. Evangelou emphasized, “This is the first time Seatrade, a leading international company in maritime conferences and exhibitions, joins forces with Greece.”
The forum would be the largest cruise conference held in Greece since the forum on “Greece: An international Cruise Junction in the Eastern Mediterranean” held in 2006. Mr. Evangelou said: “We are taking the next step by coming forth with our proposals to actively claim a greater share of the Mediterranean cruise industry.”
The forum’s main goal is to inform the industry on the enormous variety of Greek marine destinations, to exchange views with local authorities and entrepreneurs and to absorb a better understanding of the conditions and requirements that would result in an increased presence of cruise ships in Greece with routes that would include several Greek ports.
Mr. Evangelou added, “Few Greeks are aware of the total outflow of international cruises to the European Union’s economy that exceed 19 billion euros annually.” and stressed, “Greece, despite its great potential as a business hub and sea cruise destination, enjoys a very small percentage of these benefits and appears to be on the sidelines compared with other Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Spain.”
Mr. Evangelou also referred to the economic benefits that cruises would bring to the local economies, as well as encouraging a multitude of industries and services since most of the major recipients of benefits from cruises are airports, ports, shipping and travel agents, hotels and local shops.
Athanasios Oikonomou, president of the Greek National Tourism Organization, was present at the press conference and announced the tourism development ministry’s decision to establish the CRUISEinGREECE forum as an annual event and an instutition for the maritime and tourism sector.