Improving the overall cruise travel experience for visitors to the Greek island of Santorini topped the agenda of talks between Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) executives and island officials this week.
CLIA Europe Chairman Michael Thamm met with Santorini Mayor Nikos Zorzos to discuss ways that will upgrade the overall traveler experience while ensuring a sustainable future for the cruise industry. Issues included the smooth operation of the island’s berth allocation system, the need to spread tourists at peak hours, the operation of the island’s cable car, donkey welfare, as well as data collected by CLIA Europe concerning the island’s tourist flow.
“It was a real pleasure to welcome CLIA Europe to Santorini. We discussed the challenges we face on our island due to increased tourism flows and several cruise-related issues,” said Zorzos, adding that the results of the current berth allocation system were presented as well as plans for the construction of a new cable car and the promotion of new destinations on the island for cruise guests.
Last year, in efforts to decongest the world-famed caldera, ensure safety and improve accessibility and services for tourists, Santorini’s municipal authority and the Port Fund of Thira launched a new berthing management system in order to regulate the number of incoming cruise ships as well as a cap of 8,000 cruise passengers per day.
Under the system, cruise companies are required to log in their arrival dates (they can do so for up to two years ahead in order to secure a berth) and will be required to change itineraries and disembarkation times should the need arise in order to balance the number of passengers visiting the island.
Noting that one in four visitors come to Santorini on a cruise ship, Thamm, who is also CEO of Costa Group and Carnival Asia cruise companies, said the cruise industry would respect the berth allocation system and offer feedback on ways for its improvement, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the guest experience.
“We should also work on solutions to spread cruise passengers all over the island and throughout the whole season to ensure a good customer experience. The waiting times in the problematic locations such as the cable car are unacceptably high, which negatively affects the guest experience. Santorini’s landscape also has certain difficulties, such as the limited number of landing locations,” concluded Thamm.
After agreeing to continue their direct discussions and cooperation, the CLIA Europe delegation met with industry stakeholders including the harbor master, the island’s Boatmen Union, the trade association, and the Santorini Hoteliers Association.
CLIA is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association with 15 offices in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. The association supports policies and practices that foster a safe and sustainable cruise ship environment for over 26.5 million passengers who cruise annually.