Airlines and cruise companies are looking to Greece this summer in hopes of covering ground lost during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A total of 52 airline companies and 40 cruise ships will be in place to meet the demands of travelers to Greece this summer, according to Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Vassilis Korkidis.
Speaking a week after Greece opened its borders to international travelers, Korkidis, who also heads the Attica Regional Chamber Council, said Greece was among the top 10 fastest growing destinations in Europe with Athens International Airport set to host 52 airlines connecting 130 destinations worldwide.
At the same time, he added, most of the world’s largest cruise companies will be sending more than 40 of their ships to Greece scheduled to make calls to 45 Greek ports between May and November this year.
Among them, Korkidis referred to Aida, Celebrity, Costa, Hapag Lloyd, MSC, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea, TUI, and Greece-based Celestyal Cruises, which will be offering cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean this summer.
Piraeus Port this year’s cruise ship hub
Piraeus will be a homeport for Azamara Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Celestyal Cruises, Holland America Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Seabourn Cruises, and Silversea Cruises.
Celebrity has also chosen this year to launch its new “Celebrity Apex” at Piraeus.
Additionally, a number of cruise companies will also be homeporting from Corfu, and Heraklion on Crete.
According to Korkidis, the cruise industry boosts the Greek economy with 1 billion euros in annual revenue and accounts for some 12,000 jobs.
He went on to add that the cruise industry is also a key tourism revenue generator accounting for more than 15 percent of Greece’s 33 million visitors (in 2019).
Vote of confidence on Greece
Korkidis went on to underline the importance of cruise and yachting tourism for island economies, noting that local communities stand to gain since passengers and travelers “promote” the islands they visit by word of mouth.
The decision to homeport in Greece demonstrates the industry’s vote of confidence in the country, said Korkidis, a trust which is based on Greece’s successful track record in dealing with the virus, welcoming tourists in safety, and implementing stringent health protocols.
Last week, the Greek health ministry announced updated health and Covid-19 management protocols for cruise and coastal shipping to be enforced at all Greek ports.
Looking ahead, Korkidis was cautiously optimistic given the growing interest in Mediterranean destinations. Citing initial estimates, he said activity in cruise travel this year is aimed at limiting losses.
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). 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.
Earlier this year, (former) EEKFN President Theodore Kontes said he expected cruise arrivals to reach approximately 1.5 million this year provided vaccinations are effective and no new lockdowns are ordered.
Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis has reiterated the importance of cruise travel for Greece, added that restarting cruise travel is a government priority.