Cruise travel all but “drowned” in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic which resulted in a 94 percent decrease in passengers, according to the Union of Cruise Ship Owners & Associated Members (EEKFN).
More specifically, according to EEKFN data, Greece recorded 267,000 passenger arrivals on 247 port calls across its cruise destinations in 2020 compared to 5.5 million arrivals on 3,899 calls in 2019.
Projections for 2021 are reserved with EEKFN President Theodore Kontes expecting cruise arrivals to reach approximately 1.5 million this year provided vaccinations are effective and no new lockdowns are ordered.
The news comes on the back of a positive year in 2019 when according to EEKFN all of Greece’s cruise destinations recorded increased cruise activity up by 15 percent against the average annual 7 percent. Cruise sector analysts were expecting the positive trend to continue at a 10 percent rate into 2020 before Covid hit.
Referring to the impact of the deadly virus on the global cruise sector, Kontes said 2020 kicked of well but companies were forced to cancel itineraries due to the outbreak of the pandemic which resulted in “an almost dead summer period with the expected catastrophic results on local communities, the economy, but also on the industry in general”.
Looking ahead, Kontes said it will take at least four years for the sector to return to 2019 performance levels and this will depend in large part on regaining customer trust.
“It may take at least another four years, waiting for a full reopening in about 2025,” he said.
EEKFN is hoping vaccinations are effective and stringent health measures on board cruise ships and at ports will help restart cruise travel.
“Hopeful that the pandemic will be brought under control, companies are planning to restart,” said Kontes, adding that many cruise firms have deferred departures to future dates.
According to Kontes, some companies are looking to relaunch itineraries in May or June, others in August or later.
With fewer active ships in 2021, EEKFN expects the sector to retrieve about 20 percent on top 2020 results, reducing losses against 2019 from 94 percent to 74 percent, he said.
It should be noted, meanwhile, that in 2020 some 27 ships were withdrawn for scrap and an additional 18 ships were sold.
Indicatively, according to data presented by Stock Apps, the global cruise industry is expected to lose 19.6 billion dollars in revenue due to Covid in 2020.
Meanwhile, earlier this month Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) announced that they had teamed up to work towards more sustainable cruise tourism development in Greece.