A powerful partner for the cruise industry

Aris Batsoulis tells Rebecca Gibson about the fundamental role MedCruise is playing in bringing safe cruising back to ports and destinations in the Mediterranean and its adjoining seas

A powerful partner for the cruise industry
The new MedCruise marketing campaign showcases some of the best aspects of cruising in the Mediterranean

MedCruise, the world’s largest cruise port association, marks its 25th anniversary in 2021. We ask Aris Batsoulis how he navigated the challenges of Covid-19 since he was appointed as president in October 2020, as well as his plans to continue expanding membership and enhancing MedCruise’s strategic role within the cruise sector.  

What are your priorities as president of MedCruise? 

I’m honoured to be president and my immediate focus has been to manage the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis that continues to negatively impact our members’ activities and pause the continuous growth our industry has experienced since 1990. Cruise is the most affected maritime sector and many ports have seen vessel calls decrease by 90 per cent compared to 2019. We aim to provide our members with the essential tools for creating and guaranteeing conditions for safe cruise ship and guest visits. We’ll achieve this by collaborating with our partners, cruise lines, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), local authorities and destinations. 

How are you working with your members and other key stakeholders to safely resume cruise operations?  

In the early days of the pandemic, we formed an internal Covid-19 Committee of Experts, which works closely with partners such as the European Maritime Safety Agency and the EU Healthy Gateways joint action to shape the decisions taken on protocols for mitigating the risk of Covid-19 and restarting cruise activities. We consider information from CLIA about the mandatory core elements of health protocols while we develop our own proposals. 

In addition, we organise regular virtual ‘morning coffees’ to allow our members to exchange ideas with colleagues in an informal way, as well as e-meetings where cruise executives update our members on specific health protocols. We’ve also developed a new edition of our MedCruise Professional Development Course, which will involve our members inviting stakeholders – including municipalities, tourism boards, destination boards, local health authorities and chambers of commerce – to discuss how to best work together to safely resume cruise activities. The main goal is to enable our members to improve their daily operations and long-term strategies for the ‘new normal’.  

Furthermore, we’ve established a dedicated Covid-19 section on our website to provide safety information and updates on when cruise lines and ships are scheduled to resume service in our region. 

What valuable lessons have you learned from MedCruise member ports that have successfully welcomed cruise ships since the pandemic?  

Many Mediterranean ports have worked intensively to create safe conditions for cruise guests and their efforts are commendable. Of course, only a limited number of cruise lines have returned to service, so not all ports have received calls yet. Although there were some reservations and false alarms when ships initially returned, I’m glad to say that cruise lines, crew and guests have all been happy with the operations.  

Our member ports have learned four key things. First, it’s important to stay in close contact with cruise lines when orchestrating the whole process. Second, the entity managing the port must have a clear plan to ensure all protocols have been applied correctly. Third, they need to provide simple yet detailed information to cruise guests so they’re aware of the new safety measures. Fourth, and most difficult of all, ports need to communicate to locals and tourist destinations that they have made all the necessary provisions for safe cruising. MedCruise will continue to educate ports and destinations on how they can further improve on all these fronts. 

How will MedCruise’s new marketing campaigns help to encourage guests to return to Mediterranean cruises? 

We’ve produced five videos that focus on the culture, history, nature, gastronomy and touristic activities on offer at destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic Sea, Black Sea, Red Sea and Near Atlantic. These powerful videos emphasise the sights, smells and tastes of each country, showcasing the types of lifetime memories guests can create when they cruise in the Mediterranean and its adjoining seas.  

What is your aim for MedCruise as it celebrates its silver anniversary in 2021? 

It’s important for us to reflect on the past but also to focus on the future and welcome the coming cruise seasons with hope and optimism. We’ll continue to devote our efforts to make our association stronger and more useful for all members to ensure the sustainable growth of cruise activities in the region. Coming together in 1996 was the beginning, advancing together is our greatest achievement, and continuing to work together will secure our long-lasting success.

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
04 May 2021

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