Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum Brings Cruise Industry Leaders Together in Thessaloniki
Over 400 delegates from the global cruise industry gathered on Tuesday at Thessaloniki’s iconic Makedonia Palace hotel for the 7th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum, which is being held at Greece’s second biggest city for the first time since its inception.
On the first day of the forum, attendees expressed optimism and hope for the cruise industry’s future growth.
The opening day was keynoted by Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman, MSC Cruises & Global Chair, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Vago spoke about the importance of sustainability and how the cruise industry is taking steps to reduce its environmental impact.
According to Vago, the cruise industry has made “huge technological leaps” in less than 15 years as it strives to reach its decarbonisation objectives by 2050.
“For example, MSC Cruises is bringing later this year vessels that are 55 percent more efficient in terms of CO2 per nautical mile than earlier vessel classes built in 2009,” he said.
In his capacity as global chair of CLIA, Vago spoke about the association’s efforts to promote the cruise industry’s growth and development worldwide. He emphasized the importance of collaboration between cruise lines, governments and other stakeholders in ensuring the industry’s continued success.
“The cruise industry is a vital part of the global tourism industry, and it has the potential to make a significant contribution to local economies worldwide,” he said. “We are committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that the industry continues to grow and thrive in the years ahead.”
Cruise activity in Greece
During the forum, the president of the Union of Cruise Ship Owners and Maritime Agencies (EEKFN), Giorgos Koumpenas, gave a general overview of the cruise activity in Greece.
“The last two years we saw a spectacular increase to the number of cruise vessels calling in Greek ports,” Koumpenas said, citing data of the Hellenic Ports Association (ELIME).
According to the data, in 2022 there were 4,614 ships calls and 4.6 million passengers in the Greek ports members of ELIME while in 2019, a record year for tourism in Greece, there were 3,979 calls and some 5.5 million pax.
“Most importantly there was a significant increase in the homeporting in several ports such as Piraeus, Heraklion, Thessaloniki, Lavrion and Corfu, which led to a respective increase of revenue for the Greek economy,” he said.
Koumpenas added that for 2023 EEKFN expects an even higher number of cruise passengers embarking or visiting Greek destinations.
Cruise demand for Eastern Med and Greece
During the forum’s first panel discussion, MedCruise President Figen Ayan, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Europe Director General Marie-Caroline Laurent, TUI Cruises GmbH CEO Wybcke Meier and Celestyal Cruises CEO Chris Theophilides and Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) SA Chairman Yu Zenggang also shared their thoughts and optimistic messages for the growth of the cruise industry globally and in the Eastern Mediterranean more specifically.
According to Meier, this summer we will be even stronger than before as “the demand is there” especially for the Eastern Mediterranean and Greece in particular, which is very popular for German tourists.
“We see very strong bookings for the years to come as we expand our fleet. We will have more opportunities to deploy ships in this region and from next year we will have homeporting in Heraklion,” she said.
The CEO of TUI Cruises added that the number of Germans who take cruise holidays is very small and the potential for growth is huge, which means that Greece as a favourite destination for German people stands to gain the most in the future.
On his part, Celestyal’s Chris Theophilides focused on Thessaloniki as a cruise hub and highlighted the importance of its role as the host destination for the 7th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum.
“For Celestyal Cruises Thessaloniki is a very important destination, as we have a vessel here every Sunday,” he said, adding that an even bigger vessel – the Celestyal Journey – will commence cruises from Thessaloniki in September.
“We believe that the number of passengers in 2023 will reach the levels of 2019 and we remain highly optimistic for strong growth well into the future.”
Celestyal Cruises is the only cruise line based permanent in Greece and cruising exclusively in the Aegean and the East Med.
In 2022, 300,000 guests visited various Greek destinations on board Celestyal’s vessels during 460 calls while the total contribution to the Greek economy was 91 million euros.
ELIME signs MoU with EEKFN
During the opening day of the forum, the Hellenic Ports Association (ELIME) signed an MoU with the Union of Cruise Ship Owners & Associated Members (EEKFN) in order to coordinate actions and bilateral plans designed to ensure that the development of the cruise industry in the Eastern Mediterranean region is done according to the international standards of service.
“One of the first actions we will take as a result of this agreement is to implement a series of initiatives to facilitate vessels berthing allocation and to solve problems such as visas, Covid tests, immigration across the association’s 13 member ports etc,” said Hellenic Ports Association (ELIME) Chairman and Thessaloniki Port Authority (ThPA S.A.) Managing Director Athanasios Liagkos.
According to Liagkos, in the framework of the MoU, ELIME will coordinate the activities of its members to develop port policy, the participation of ports in regional development, and the creation of robust and competitive port service companies.
The 7th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum event continues on Wednesday, April 26, with a number of panel discussions, seminars and presentations.
Held by Posidonia Exhibitions S.A., the 7th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum is sponsored by the Thessaloniki Port Authority SA, the Piraeus Port Authority SA, Celestyal Cruises, Kyvernitis Travel and the Thessaloniki Tourism Organisation.
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) is a media sponsor for the Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum 2023.