Op-Ed: George Koumpenas on Greece’s future in cruise tourism
As we begin to come out of the pandemic, the global travel and tourism economy is starting to show strong signs of recovery. While this is certainly a positive development, we must remember that the cruise industry was the tourism sector which was hit the hardest by the pandemic. It is also important to note that there was a period in 2020, when not a single cruise vessel was in operation.
However, according to global estimates, passenger numbers are anticipated to not only recover but are expected to exceed 2019 levels by the end of 2023. According to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), 100 percent of the global passenger capacity of CLIA member cruise lines is projected to be in service by the end of July 2022.
While this is certainly encouraging, we would be remiss not to acknowledge that several complex issues remain and have yet to be resolved before the cruise industry can fully recover.
New waves of Covid-19 and its variants continue to plague various parts of the world. In addition to that, cruise lines are now facing extremely high fuel prices and general inflationary pressures, including increased costs of catering, raw materials, and spare parts prices.
Furthermore, crew shortages, supply chain issues, and the uncertainty surrounding the war in Ukraine, which are all having a negative impact on the industry’s ability to rebound more quickly.
The ongoing war has resulted in the cancellation of Baltic and Black Sea itineraries and the unavailability of Ukrainian seafarers, who made up a significant proportion of our crews. Of course, we are following the events in Ukraine with great concern and hope that normalcy will prevail in the region as soon as possible.
Despite these challenges, the government has managed to minimize the impact of the pandemic on our country and its vital tourism economy. This has allowed us to attract a growing number of cruise ships to our ports.
In 2022, Greece will have a record number of vessels homeporting in its ports, and the country is currently in the top three cruise destinations in Europe. At the same time, there is still work to be done to improve port infrastructure and for introducing a comprehensive berth allocation system which will assist in reducing the phenomenon of overcrowding in certain destinations.
While the challenges are significant, the industry is resilient, and I have no question in my mind that together we will overcome these challenges.
The future for cruising in Greece remains bright.
Union of Cruise Ship owners & Association Members President
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