Over 400 delegates from the global cruise industry gathered 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, attendees expressed optimism and hope for the cruise industry’s future growth, with opening remarks delivered by Apostolos Tzitzikostas, Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia, Konstantinos Zervas, Mayor of Thessaloniki Municipality and Athanasios Liagkos, Executive Chairman of the BoD & Managing Director of ThPA SA – Port of Thessaloniki.
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. Vago emphasized that “the cruise industry has made huge technological leaps in less than 15 years as we strive to reach our decarbonisation objectives by 2050. For example, MSC Cruises is bringing later this year vessels that are 55% more efficient in terms of CO2 per nautical mile than earlier vessel classes built in 2009.”
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.”
Apostolos Tzitzikostas extended an invitation to the cruise industry to invest in Thessaloniki. He said: “With its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, Thessaloniki has the potential to become a major destination for cruise travellers. Thessaloniki offers a unique blend of historical and modern attractions, including museums, galleries, and a vibrant food scene. By investing in Thessaloniki, the international cruise industry could help to create new jobs and stimulate economic growth, while also providing travellers with an unforgettable experience in one of Europe’s most beautiful and fascinating cities.
During the Forum’s first panel discussion titled “The Return to Growth: Challenges ahead for Cruise Lines and Destinations,” Yu Zenggang, Chairman of Piraeus Port Authority SA, said that the Piraeus port resumed its cruise operations in May 2021, faster than other Mediterranean ports and experienced a significant uptake in the cruise sector in 2021.
In 2019, Piraeus port broke the 1 million mark in terms of cruise passengers. Nevertheless, the port not only achieved fast and full recovery but exceeded pre-pandemic levels. The port successfully served a significant number of cruise ships, contributing to the recovery of the Greek tourist industry. Overall, 2022 was a record-breaking year for Piraeus Port Authority, with both revenue and profitability at their highest-ever levels. The port’s cruise segment showed a significant increase in both port calls and passenger traffic. In 2022, passenger traffic increased by 190 percent to 880,416 compared to 303,665 in 2021. Cruise ship berthing also rose by 79 percent to 677 berths compared to 379 a year earlier, exceeding pre-Covid 2019 levels.
Yu said that a new cruise terminal is on the way, which, at its final phase, may accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world. It is expected to finish in a 2-three-year period, following the licensing procedure by the involved ministries and always in good and close cooperation with the Greek government.
Figen Ayan, President, MedCruise, Marie-Caroline Laurent, Director General, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Europe, Wybcke Meier, CEO, TUI Cruises GmbH and Chris Theophilides, CEO, Celestyal also shared their thoughts and optimistic messages for the growth of the cruise industry globally and in the Eastern Mediterranean more specifically.
Meier said: “This summer we will be even stronger than before, 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. When we work together in a more coordinated way with the destinations making sure that we provide a great experience to the local population and to our guests in issues such as berthing policy and a little bit more transparency can help us all as we can more effectively steer the guest flows we have. 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.”
Theophilides said: “It’s very important that the event takes place in Thessaloniki which for Celestyal Cruises is a very important destination, as we have a vessel here every Sunday. An even bigger vessel, 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.”
During the opening day of the event, 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. Liagkos, in his capacity as Chairman of Hellenic Ports Association (ELIME), said: “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. In the framework of this MoU, we will coordinate the activities of our members to develop port policy, the participation of ports in regional development, and the creation of robust and competitive port service companies.”
The event continues tomorrow with a number of panel discussions, seminars and presentations.
The 2023 PSTF is sponsored by Diamond Sponsor Thessaloniki Port Authority SA, Gold Sponsor Region of Central Macedonia, Silver Sponsor Piraeus Port Authority SA, Bronze Sponsors Celestyal Cruises, Global Ports Holding, Greek National Tourism Organisation, Heraklion Port Authority SA, Kyvernitis Travel and Thessaloniki Tourism Organisation. The official airline is SKY express. PSTF 2023 is supported by AVIS, Global Air Compass and Agora Modiano. The Forum is organised under the auspices of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy and the Ministry of Tourism and supported by the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports (MedCruise) and the Union of Cruise Ship Owners & Associated Members.