Greek tourist ports in today’s fast changing environment: Challenges, opportunities and new marketing strategies
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be participating in the works of the 96th Annual International Convention and Conference addressing the development of ports from the Greek shipping tourism perspective, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 1st Vice Chair of the Organizing Committee, Mrs Dorothea Ioannou, for the invitation.
Unfortunately, a once unimaginable, war in Europe casts its grey shadow over all social, economic and environmental aspects, including international maritime tourism and shipping.
Of course, it is still quite early to predict its long-term consequences, but this conflict will -undoubtedly- affect the aforementioned areas.
However, I honestly believe now is the time for an extended discussion about the opportunities that arise for Greek maritime tourism and yachting in a new era characterized by strong volatility, multiple crises, and interconnected networks of stakeholders.
To be more specific, yachting has demonstrated impressive resilience during the pandemic due to its inherent characteristics of privacy and social distancing.
This makes us extremely optimistic about the future, as the development of maritime tourism and yachting is one of the main strategic development axes for tourism in our country.
At this point let me mention some critical statistics on the matter:
According to the European Commission, in 2018 more than 2 million workers were employed in coastal tourism in the Mediterranean countries of the EU. In this respect, the European Commission promotes coastal and maritime tourism through the Blue Growth Strategy as a tool for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth in Europe.
At national level, coastal and maritime tourism can be a powerful tool for the development of the economy with its total economic contribution amounting to an estimated 1.4-1.5% of Greece’s GDP while the indirect contribution is considered to be 4 to 5 times higher.
After all, Greece is already one of the most popular destinations in the world for yachts, for reasons that are self-evident:
Christies Real Estate places the Greek Islands as the 2nd best destination in the world for luxury yachting, just behind the French Riviera and above destinations such as the Virgin Islands, Palm Beach, Florida and the Costa Esmeralda of Italy.
According to Bloomberg, Greece has been at the top of the SuperYachts since June 2021 with almost 200 moored vessels on June 25, 2021 (jump from 80 in May 2021) after the reopening of tourism.
It should also be noted that Greece ranks at the top-3 of the most popular destinations in charters market worldwide with a 17% market share, very close to the South of France (20% of the market) and Italy (19%).
Greece is also the 4th most popular destination for mega-yachts, a fact that creates significant pressures on the existing port infrastructure but also emphasizes the need to create specialized berths.
This market segment is displaying significant dynamics, with the number of vessels constantly increasing as 1,000 new super yachts are being built worldwide with an additional 300 vessels to be added by the end of 2022. Also, according to VesselsValue, Super Yachts 2021 Sales above 30 meters reached the number of 887 vessels, an increase of 77% VS 2020 and of 100% VS 2019.
As far as the Greek and International market of selling Super Yachts in 2020 vs 2019 is concerned, there was a significant increase in sales that reached three times more compared to the previous year.
These sales of Super Yachts where either from Greek to Greek owners or Greek to Foreign owners and vice versa.
Orders for new luxury yachts have set a particularly high record with major constructions on mega yachts about 45 meters long and above. Shipyards for such constructions already have multiple orders for deliveries until 2025-2026.
At the same time almost a third of the world’s cruise liners will be operating in Greece this year, according to Cruise Lines International Association, whose representatives at Posidonia 2022 also praised the Greek government’s commitment to the target for zero carbon emissions and the objective of alternative marine fuel development.
The upgrade of Greece’s role as a leading cruise destination is also confirmed by this year’s figures for the country, CLIA noted in a statement: Out of the 279 cruise ships of CLIA member companies worldwide, 87 will operate in Greece this year, of which 47 will homeport in the country. This is a trend that started in the midst of the pandemic, when Greece led the resumption of cruising, but continues with the same momentum, CLIA stressed.
Indicative is the increase of tourist traffic in the cruise sector by 25%, compared to 2019, with in fact, the last cruise arriving on January 5, 2023.
Specifically, according to data from the Hellenic Ports Association, the number of pre-bookings of cruise ships for 2022 in Greece reaches 4,939 ships. In 2021, a total of 2,064 cruise ships with 1,418,315 passengers had arrived in our country, compared to 3,979 cruise ships with 5,552,384 passengers in 2019.
In the light of the above specialized form of tourism the Greek State has currently developed a plan that evolves in 3 strategic axes:
- The development of a new business friendly institutional framework for tourist ports with the aim of significantly accelerating the relevant procedures for allocation, contracting, and licensing of tourist ports. The goal here is to create a favorable investment environment in order to attract significant investments.
- The introduction of a coherent marketing strategy that places thematic tourism and maritime tourism in the center: We move beyond the traditional “sea and sun” model and we further develop the brand identity of the country by offering a holistic travelling experience.
- The establishment of a Research and Monitoring Centre for Coastal and Maritime Tourism in the Mediterranean in strong collaboration with UN World Tourism Organization: That important project will provide us with timely, comparable, and reliable data on a regular basis on coastal and maritime tourism in our region to better align and focus on our strategy.
All the above shall contribute to the substantial development of maritime tourism and especially yachting, with the ultimate goal of establishing Greece as a global player in this key market segment.
In addition, I would like to point out some numbers regarding the financial tools offered by the European Recovery and Resilience Fund (European RRF) where tourists ports is the no1 focus area: € 160mn in total will be invested to tourist ports analyzed as follows:
- € 139mn will be invested in in the upgrade of tourist ports
- € 19mn will be invested in providing planning & implementing services on interested parties that have no such capabilities
- € 0,6mn will be invested in Digitalization
Therefore, out of the total of €320mn from the European RRF for tourism 50% will be invested in upgrading touristic ports of Greece.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our action applies on two levels: (a) the improvement of the Infrastructure with the Tourist Ports-Marinas, as well as (b) the new Marketing Strategy that puts nautical tourism at the top of our priorities.
In particular, the competent Committee of Tourist Ports convened by the General Secretariat for Tourism Policy and Development met for the fourth time in six months to settle issues related to nine tourist ports throughout the country. Specifically, the following nine tourist ports proceeded to the next stages:
- Marina in Ormos Panormos of D. Lavreotikis (OLYMPIC MARINE S.A.)
- Anchorage of Tourist Boats at partheni, Leros
- Marina Kalamaria
- Tourist Boat Shelter in Pournia, Lemnos
- Tourist Port at Pidali, N. Syros.
- Tourist Boat Shelter at posidonio in the Municipality of Thessaloniki
- Tourist Boat Shelter in front of the Hotel “MIRABELLO S.A.”
- Tourist Boat Shelter at the Port of Porto Heli, Municipality of Kranidi, Argolida
- Athens Marina (SEF)
Furthermore, the operation license of the Tourist Boat Sanctuary in Alypa, Paleokastritsa, Corfu, was issued, which we inaugurated with the Minister of Tourism on August 3rd. Also, major projects are coming to completion.
In addition, as demonstrated by the conclusions of the round table discussion between the national partners of coastal and maritime tourism of our country that took place in June 2021 in Athens, on the sidelines of the 66th Session of the Regional Committee for Europe of the World Tourism Organization, although the contribution of maritime tourism to the Greek economy in terms of employment and income for the islands and coastal areas is significant, there is still potential for improvement in order to become a key driver for further economic development of local communities and the Greek economy as a whole.
Moreover, taking into account the recent inclusion of the Project “Upgrading of Tourist Ports in the Recovery and Resilience Fund, but also the provisions of Law 4442/16 for the acceleration of business licensing, there was an urgent need to modify legislation in order to simplify and optimize the framework for the allocation and operation of tourist ports.
In particular, the following changes were introduced to the bill that was passed and published as Law 4926/22:
- Simplification of licensing (transition to an operating approval regime of law 4442/2016)
- Establishment of a legalization procedure for existing tourist port facilities
- Possibility of increasing under conditions, i.e. providing compensating benefits, the building coefficient within the located tourist ports with Law 2160/1993.
It is now possible to initiate the tendering procedure for the concession of a tourist port and the conclusion of the concession contract at a point in time prior to completion of the allocation procedure. In this way, the faster and more effective implementation of high-value projects with a land area of more than 90,000sqm is ensured and is expected to attract more interest from investors.
It must be noted that the granted possibility of legalizing existing facilities does not lead to circumvention of the legislation and that is why a three-month deadline is provided for from publication: this is an arrangement that combines the pro-investment direction of the bill with the initiative for the fastest possible completion of all the required procedures and the legal operation of the ports.
Moreover, according to the new Development Law 4887/2022 that was introduced in 2022, there are few options for Tourist businesses (as with all businesses): a. to either get funding for covering the supported costs, b. tax incentives (waive of taxes on profits), c. funding for leasing activities for up to 7 years and d. funding for the new employment related salary costs. (Note: Mykonos & Santorini are excluded)
Policies to strengthen governance in the tourism sector, support tourism investments, promote skills development, encourage the digitization of tourism SMEs and promote the sustainable management of destinations are ranked high at the top of our agenda at the Ministry of Tourism.
In this context and in accordance with the new Development Law (Law 4887/2022) tourism investments related to the promotion of special forms of tourism, utilizing the particular geographical, social and cultural characteristics of the various regions of the country are widely promoted. In the same spirit, a wide range of tourism investments are supported, which mainly concern the creation, expansion and modernization of integrated accommodation and resorts in order to upgrade the national tourism product.
In addition to the above it should be mentioned that travelers’ expectations and the structure of the visitors’ economy are evolving rapidly under the impact of green and digital change. Therefore, tourism has to face major upheavals, such as the transition to the low-carbon economy and the constant adaptation to new technologies. Nowadays, innovation and sustainability have become the new norm, and rightly so.
Thus, digital and green transitions are among the priorities of the National Recovery Plan for tourism and the NSRF 2021-2027. The investment sectors in Greek tourism are digital skills, the adoption of sustainable production and consumption patterns, as well as digital capabilities and data management in view of addressing the digital and environmental transition that is of paramount importance for tourism in line with both the UN 2030 Agenda and the European Green Deal (2019-2024), as well as the transition path of European tourism according to the European Travel Committee (ETC).
Ladies and gentlemen,
Last but not least, with more than 6,000 islands and islets, and a well-established tourism industry, Greece presents a prime investment opportunity in the Sea Tourism sector. Therefore, in order for our strategy concerning the islands to be efficient, the following important factors should be considered:
- The dynamics of the islands, which take into account the peculiarity of insularity (advantages-disadvantages, vulnerability of the island system), social, economic, environmental balances, adequacy of energy and water resources, natural diversity (species, ecosystems, landscapes), in coastal and marine space and their vulnerability to natural & man-derived dangers.
- The bearing capacity of the islands, inextricably linked to sustainable tourism development and the reduction of the natural, economic and sociocultural effects caused by overtourism phenomena that create significant adverse effects on the level of satisfaction of visitors.
All the above are part of our holistic plan for the substantial upgrade of maritime tourism in Greece, with the ultimate goal of transforming it to a competitive advantage/sector of our country internationally.
In conclusion, it must be realized that the challenges ahead of us, the shift to sustainability, the changes in areas such as accessibility, the digitalization of the business environment and a new framework for cooperation between tourism and the startup ecosystem is a project, which only with our joint efforts will be crowned with success.
So, I look forward to hearing your views, as well as your various concerns on the challenges and opportunities for the «Ports in today’s fast changing environment» and «how will the current external pressures that impact shipping and trade, together with new environmental regulations, technology trends, increasing cyber threats and the foreseeable tonnage affect port operations».
In the midst of an unprecedented international turmoil, it is important to focus on all the things that make us optimistic about a better future. Provided, however, that we have done our best in the present.
The facts are clear. We are all well aware of both the difficulties and our potential. Now is the time to act in order to turn crises into opportunities.