The estimate that the cruise traffic will return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023 is expressed by, Maria Deligianni, general director of CLIA (International Association of Cruise Companies) for the Eastern Mediterranean describing this year as crucial for the return of the industry to normal.

At the same time, as he says speaking to “NEA” newspaper, the prospects for Greece and the Aegean are very positive as it remains consistently high in the preferences of cruise companies, being already the 3rd largest country-cruise destination in Europe.

We have now entered the season normally. What is the picture for the cruise industry for 2022, internationally, in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean? Is it moving according to initial estimates?

2022 is a pivotal year of recovery for the cruise industry. Internationally, in terms of number of cruise ships, 100% of the global passenger capacity of CLIA members is expected to be operational by the end of July. The capacities of the cruise ships are expected to reach but also to exceed the pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023.

The prospects are particularly positive for Greece, the Aegean and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region. Greece will remain consistently high in the preferences of cruise companies being already the 3rd largest country-cruise destination in Europe. Cruises have started in the country since March and the opening with Turkey from last autumn will help this season. At the same time, Cyprus remains firmly in companies’ preferences while Israel enters the game dynamically.

Especially for our country, give us an idea, how many cruise ships will finally arrive, how many will make a home port and in which ports? Are we approaching the levels of 2019?

In 2022, 87 cruise ships of CLIA members are expected to cruise in Greece reaching almost the levels of 2019. It is noteworthy that 54% of them will make a home port in Greece, more specifically will make partial or total boarding of passengers in Greek ports. This new trend started last year when we had 30 cruise ships that sailed in Greek territorial waters, of which 77% boarded cruise passengers in Greece. In terms of number of arrivals and departures, it is particularly positive that the statistics of the Hellenic Ports Association (ELIME) speak for a 25% increase this year compared to 2019 levels. In 2021, we reached 50% of the approaches made in 2019. Home ports for this year it will be Piraeus, Heraklion, Corfu, Thessaloniki and Lavrio.

What about the fullness of the ships? Will we be far behind in relation to 2019?

The data we have from the operation of cruise ships so far, especially in the Mediterranean areas, show that the capacity is around 60%, however this number is expected to increase gradually in the summer. Both the Omicron mutation and the war in Ukraine and geopolitical instability affected bookings to some extent. However, after two years of strict restrictions, we expect that people will travel and the year will end with a very positive sign.

We are entering a new era, what changes on the cruise after the pandemic? What are the new trends?

At the level of protocols, cruising is one of the few industries in the world where despite the relaxation of measures, it continues to adhere to strict health protocols. Frequent and repeated tests, use of contactless technology, advanced ventilation systems, frequent cleaning and disinfection, observance of safety distances, increased and specialized medical staff and prevention and treatment plans are an integral part of the health protocols followed on board. As for the new trends, they are very positive and justify our optimism for the course of the industry in the near future. 69% of respondents who have never cruised say they are open to this type of travel, a rate that exceeds pre-pandemic levels. Millennial cruise passengers are the most enthusiastic about going on a cruise again, with 87% saying they will cruise again in the coming years, followed by the Gen X generation with 85 %.

How in these new conditions can our country have increased revenues from the industry?

The cruise industry contributes 1 billion euros to the national economy, while 16,500 professionals are active in the sector in Greece. The new trend for increasing homeporting in Greece which started in the middle of a pandemic is expected to bring additional financial benefits, both from the accommodation of passengers before and after the cruise in Greece, but also from air travel, as well as from the services of supply, maintenance and supply of cruise ships. Through a network of interventions, including the strengthening of port infrastructure and the development of new cruise destinations, the country can secure even more benefits from the industry in the coming years. Finally, it is worth noting that 6 out of 10 cruise travelers state that they have returned to at least one destination from those who visited for the first time on a cruise ship, confirming our contribution to the development of the wider tourism sector.

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