A programme of panel discussions was held on the event’s interactive digital platform
The latest edition of the Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum took place on 25 May, with executives from major cruise lines discussing their plans for the resumption of cruising.
With a programme of panel discussions and 21 exhibitors showcasing their offerings via the interactive digital platform, the event was the first to gather the decision makers of the sector since the mid-May resumption of cruising in the East Mediterranean. The event was opened by a speech from Ioannis Plakiotakis, Greek minister of maritime affairs and insular policy.
“Forty cruise ships are expected to operate in Greek waters and 45 ports have their own contingency plans developed in a way to facilitate cruise ships without affecting the experience of passengers, crews or the local communities,” said Plakiotakis. “Thanks to our national blue freedom vaccination programme which prioritises tourism destinations and cruise hotspots, we are optimistic that this year will be substantially better than the previous.”
Cruise companies have already deployed 18 vessels in European waters. This number is set to increase to 28 in June and 50 in July before reaching a maximum target of 60 operational ships in August.
“Now more than ever feels like the time of renewal as the industry emerges from the dark winter of Covid,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, global chairman of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and executive chairman of MSC Cruises. “Challenges will remain, but we are building back better and can be optimistic now, as we have worked with governments, terminals and destinations to develop protocols for a safe and responsible return to service.”
More than 200,000 passengers have taken a cruise since the end of last summer, with Greece being among the earliest countries to allow operations to resume.
“Greece is a pillar for Germans, Italians and the French due to its beauty and the natural desire to see the country, and cruising is the best way to do that,” said Michael Thamm, group CEO for Costa Group and Carnival Asia. “We want to extend our presence in Greece beyond the season even to December. Both our brands have resumed operations in Greece and there will be more ships coming to Greece.”
However, some operators cautioned that challenges may arise from a growth in popularity for Greek cruising.
“Over-tourism may be over in a post-pandemic world, but we should make sure we don’t have too many ships at the same time in the same ports,” said Wybcke Meier, CEO of TUI Cruises. “Islands need to have a plan on the number of ships they can accept at the same time. And port operators need to have the infrastructure to accept bigger ships.”
Executives also discussed the prevention and reaction protocols they have put into place to tackle Covid-19, highlighting the need for these protocols to become standardised across the industry.
“Every country is asking for the [passenger locater] form every time we arrive to a different country,” said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises. “As long as uniformity is not properly reached as soon as possible between different countries, we may face unnecessary issues for our guests, and this may render cruising uncompetitive compared to other forms of tourism. Protocols are working but we need greater uniformity.”
Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum is organised with the approval of the Greek Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy and the Ministry of Tourism, and is supported by the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, CLIA, the Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports and the Union of Cruise Ship Owners and Associated Members.
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