Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum 2023, Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki, 25 April 2023

CLIA Global Chairman, Pierfrancesco Vago opened the Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum on Tuesday morning, underlining Greece’s role as an important cruise hub and reveals action plan for growth.

Dear all,

Good morning.

I’m delighted to be here with you today in Thessaloniki, for the first in-person Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum since 2019.

And thank you to those members of the Government who could be here today even in a pre-election period including:

As an industry, we weathered the storm together.

Now, we are making waves again.

After three years of reduced operations, 2023 is when we return to our pre pandemic growth trajectory.

We expect up to 33 million cruise passengers worldwide, exceeding 2019 volumes by over 11%.

And when it comes to the East Med, cruise ships from all brands are coming back ahead of the summer season.

Greece now has an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen its position as a cruise hub in the region and today I will outline the key actions to achieve this.

Europe is one of the top cruise regions in the world.

It is the second largest market globally, attracting 21% of the world’s cruise travellers.

During the downturn, European governments led the way by working collaboratively with us, particularly in the East Med.

Together, we took the necessary steps to enable a phased, safe and responsible return to service.

And here I want to convey a special thanks to Greece, and in particular the University of Thessaly, and Professor Christos Hadjichristodoulou.

They were a key part of the EU Healthy Gateways project to support the restart of our vessels here in the region, and in Greece itself during the pandemic emergency.

And they continue with their important input through the EU Healthy Sailing – Horizon Europe Project.

The cruise industry benefits local economies here and across the whole of Europe.

In 2021 for example with restrictions still in place, cruising starting with the yards generated 41 billion Euro of economic impact across the Continent, supporting 315,000 European jobs.

In fact, the economic impact that cruise tourism brought to this country surpassed 1 billion Euro and generated more than 15,000 jobs.

In Greece today, the economic benefits from the tourists that come to these shores on cruise ships are already higher than in 2019.

The cruise industry benefits local economies here and across the whole of Europe. In 2021 for example with restrictions still in place, cruising starting with the yards generated 41 billion Euro of economic impact across the Continent, supporting 315,000 European jobs.

Mr Pierfrancesco Vago, CLIA Chairman

This is in part thanks to the great work by local authorities to increase homeporting operations in Greece.

Last year, 47 of the 87 CLIA cruise ships that operated in Greece homeported – a 54% year-on-year increase. 

Homeporting brings the strongest economic benefits for any destination.

It increases the time that tourists spend ashore both before and after the cruise, including demand for accommodation.

There are also the benefits of expenditures by passengers during their stay, including for services, food, entertainment, and shopping.

Every cruise tourist at the port of embarkation typically spends more than 400 Euro, while the amount at the ports visited along the ship’s itinerary is estimated to be at least 100 Euro a passenger. 

Supplying, maintaining, and refueling our ships also adds more jobs at homeports.

Many Greek ports and destinations are doing great work to become more attractive for cruise tourism.

Our hosts today deserve a special mention.

Thanks to their work and collaboration with cruise lines, Thessaloniki is increasingly being included in itineraries.

This has the potential of bringing the broader economic and job creation benefits of cruise tourism to neighboring states.

I’d like to thank Mr Liagkos, the Chairman of the Port Authority, for helping us develop our product in this region.

And for hosting us today!

Ladies and gentlemen, cruising is a sound and compelling investment for coastal communities.

In fact, 6 out of 10 cruise travellers return to the destinations they visited on a cruise for longer stays.

This generates opportunities for local businesses to develop and market their products and services to new, wider audiences.

In turn stimulating the broader tourism industry for tour operators, ferry companies and other players in the sector.

Today, as our industry moves into the next phase of its development, we are looking to further extend our reach across the Eastern Med.

Greece has many destinations to visit, including smaller islands, and we are proud that we can discover them through segments of our cruise industry like luxury and expedition, and promote them. 

Greece is an important cruise hub in the Mediterranean with great potential for further growth.

Having developed its homeporting capabilities, the challenge now is for ports, cruise operators, and authorities to create the right infrastructure and operating environment for the long-term.  

To allow smooth operation we need to invest in infrastructure.

This means ensuring that the specific needs of cruise operations are considered as part of the port infrastructure development, particularly in the context of the port privatisation process taking place now in Greece.

It also means delivering smooth and efficient border control facilities for cruise passengers and crew.

To maintain the attractiveness of Greece as a cruise hub, we need to work together to ensure that ports have enough resources available to process passengers.

Not only today, but when the new European border control rules of Entry-Exit System will be implemented and impact turnaround operations

It is crucial we join forces here the cruise industry, ports and the next Government to ensure our guests from across the world can visit Greek destinations unimpeded and our crew can secure visas to serve them.

All cruise brands here today stand ready to invest and I would also like to encourage the port privatisation process and commend the outstanding efforts of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund – TA-I-PE-THE!

We also encourage the next Greek Government to consider a legal framework to allow berth reservations for all maritime activities including cruise and ferry to ensure better and safer operations in light of IMO and EU regulations.

We as an industry are always ready to engage over crucial issues to find solutions as we have over the misperception of overcrowding.

A practical example of this dialogue in action can be seen at the Acropolis in Athens.

Tour operators and cruise lines are working together to coordinate visit schedules and ensure that there is no overcrowding or parking congestion at this world-famous site.

Elsewhere in Greece, CLIA is also partnering with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and city authorities on sustainable tourism assessments.

We are ensuring that the value that we add to the communities is not only economic, but also environmental and social. This is paramount for us all. Here and everywhere we operate.

To help the cruise industry deliver its goal of net zero cruising by 2050, we need the right onshore solutions to match the technologies deployed onboard our ships.

As per the EU institutions agreement on FuelEUMaritime reached in April, we know 235 ports in the EU must be shore power ready by 2030, with the rest to follow by 2035

We need ports to deploy, where feasible, shoreside electricity capability which helps to reduce air emissions to the benefit of local populations.

CLIA commends the on-going efforts of Heraklion and Piraeus to deploy this capability in the short term.

To help the cruise industry deliver its goal of net zero cruising by 2050, we need the right onshore solutions to match the technologies deployed onboard our ships.

Mr Pierfrancesco Vago, CLIA Chairman

As an industry, we make major investments in sustainable technologies and fuels to continuously improve our vessels’ environmental performance using European suppliers wherever possible.

Earlier this year we – CLIA – with SEA Europe made an important joint declaration at our European Summit in Paris calling on European Institutions to recognize and protect our industry’s unique knowledge base.

A knowledge base that can help solve the climate challenges facing not just the maritime industry but society at large.

For example, the latest vessels from my own brand MSC Cruises including MSC Euribia coming later this year are 55% more efficient in terms of CO2 emissions per nautical mile than earlier vessel classes built in 2009

We – the cruise industry – have made these huge technological leaps in less than 15 years and we are striving to reach our decarbonisation objectives by 2050.

And we are encouraged to see that Greece is setting itself on the path to become a leader like the cruise industry in this discussion on new technologies and fuels – and we stand ready to work with your authorities and institutions!

Also, and most importantly, sustainable growth lies with our people.

The long-term success of any industry depends on the talent and skills of its people.

There is a great opportunity for Greece, a maritime nation, to build the skills of the next generation of seafarers.

CLIA is participating in the YES to SEApping Forum this week, an important initiative to inform young people about the role of shipping and sea tourism in the blue economy.

As we look to the future, our optimism is buoyed by positive consumer sentiment.

CLIA’s research suggests that the intention to cruise is higher than it was before the pandemic.

85% of those who cruised in the past are likely to cruise again – 6% higher than in 2019.

The number of people who would like to try a cruise vacation is also higher now.

Crucial to the realisation of this plan is basing it on solid and robust data that we have committed to provide to the Greek authorities.

So, thanks to Posidonia and our organisers for bringing us together for this special moment.

I now look forward to hearing from our panellists how we can maximise this potential together.

In Thessaloniki, in Greece, and across the Eastern Med.

Thank you.