Cruise industry heralds Greece’s role as an important cruise hub

..and reveals action plans for growth

As the international cruise sector continues its positive growth trajectory during 2023, the 7th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum, which brings together industry leaders from all over the world, is an ideal platform for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the leading voice of the global cruise industry, to address the major topics, challenges and opportunities that will shape the industry’s agenda in coming years.

The Forum is being held today and tomorrow in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, at a pivotal moment for Greece, whose role in the safe resumption of cruising creates a unique opportunity for the country to optimize its position on the global cruise map.

The Forum was opened by a keynote speech delivered by Mr Pierfrancesco Vago, Global Chairman of CLIA and Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises. In the keynote, Mr Vago revealed an action plan for sustainable growth that emphasized the need to invest in infrastructure to maintain smooth operations and enhance the attractiveness of Greece as a cruise hub.

“Greece is an important cruise hub in the Mediterranean, with great potential for further growth. Having developed its homeporting capabilities, the priority now is for ports, cruise operators and authorities to work together to create the right infrastructure and operating environment for the long-term”, said Pierfrancesco Vago, Global Chairman of CLIA and Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, during his keynote speech that opened the Forum today.

The key actions proposed are working together to: promote new destinations, create the right port infrastructure and operating environment, develop sustainable tourism practices, introduce onshore solutions to match environmental technologies deployed onboard and support development of new fuels, and build the skills of the next generation of seafarers.

Mr. Vago is leading a high-level CLIA delegation at the Forum, including Marie-Caroline Laurent, Director General, Europe, Sascha Gill, Vice President, Sustainability, Maria Deligianni, National Director – Eastern Mediterranean, and Andy Harmer, Managing Director, UK & Ireland.

The importance of the Mediterranean region in post-pandemic cruising was among the top issues discussed at the opening of the Forum.

“With such vibrancy and diversity of cultures, the Mediterranean region is one of the world’s favorite places to visit. And this magnificent region still offers so many more places to discover, best to be discovered by sea. Cruise tourism is a real opportunity for new destinations like remote island and coastline areas, bringing important social and economic benefits to more communities”, said Marie-Caroline Laurent, Director General, CLIA.

The CLIA team addressed all major topics and key priorities for the industry by participating in panel discussions and organizing special sessions and workshops. Sustainable cruising is on the top of these priorities, as CLIA members are committed to delivering the vision of net zero cruising by 2050 and are acting now to make this vision a reality – by equipping ships to connect to shoreside electricity, reducing emissions for the benefit of local populations, investing in the development of new sustainable marine fuels and onboard technologies.

CLIA organised a session today on “Pathways to Net Zero”, moderated by Sascha Gill, Vice President, Sustainability, CLIA. The session covered topics ranging from decarbonisation, port infrastructure and safety requirements, to the Poseidon principles, exploring the pathways to achieve net zero and challenges to be overcome.

Increasing awareness about careers in the cruise industry is another priority for CLIA, especially in light of 2023 being the European Year of Skills. Maria Deligianni, National Director – Eastern Mediterranean, CLIA, will be among panellists of ‘YES to SEApping Forum’ tomorrow, supporting this important initiative to inform young people about the role of shipping and sea tourism in the blue economy and promoting the opportunity for Greece to build the skills of the next generation of seafarers.

The opportunity for new destinations to enrich the cruise lines’ itineraries as well as the increasing importance of lesser-known destinations are also on the agenda. CLIA, in association with the Federation of Hellenic Associations of Tourist & Travel Agencies (FedHATTA) is hosting a workshop where Andy Harmer, Managing Director, UK & Ireland, CLIA and other industry experts will discuss how Travel Agents can benefit from increased demand for cruise holidays.

Cruise lines have a track record of working with destinations to introduce tourism management solutions that maintain a great visitor experience. Cruise tourism is managed tourism, which means that effective planning can be made in advance. Investment in new port destinations and facilities could play a pivotal role in unlocking future growth potential, while reducing pressure on “marquee” destinations.

With anticipated passenger volumes of 27-33 million ocean-going guests globally in 2023, a buoyed consumer sentiment with intention to cruise higher than before the pandemic, and its focus on sustainable travels, the cruise industry can be rightfully optimistic for the future.