Maritime tourism in Greece: Challenges, opportunities and new marketing strategies

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

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 currently 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 over. Shipyards for such constructions already have multiple orders for deliveries until 2025-2026.

In the light of the above specialized form of tourism the Greek State has currently developed a plan that evolved in 3 strategic axes:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 analysed as follows:

  1. € 139mn will be invested in in the upgrade of tourist ports
  2. € 19mn will be invested in providing planning & implementing services on interested parties that have no such capabilities
  3. € 0,6mn will be invested in Digitalization

Therefore, out of the total of €320mn from the European RRF 50% will be invested in upgrading touristic ports of Greece.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is essential to establish in our country a complete, efficient and sustainable network of tourist ports, in accordance with the legal framework recently revised and the adopted marketing strategies of our Ministry. 

Ιn particular, the following changes were adopted in the recent Bill 4926/2022:

• Simplification of licensing (transition to the regime of approval of operation in line with the provisions of Law 4442/2016)

• Establishment of a legalization procedure for existing tourist port facilities

• Potential increase of the building ratio within the allocated tourist ports, provided that certain compensating benefits are granted to the local communities.

In addition to the above the Key Investment Opportunities in Tourism are promoted, in specific as follows:

  • Privatization of several key state-owned tourist and transport assets (marinas, regional airports, tourist properties, etc.) by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund.
  • Development of premium tourist resorts and properties aided by the corresponding funding and tax incentives. In specific 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)
  • Development of specialized tourist products and facilities (gastronomy, culture, wellness, silver tourism, medical tourism, etc.), markets (Russia, Israel, Asia, etc.), or segments (elderly, millennials, etc.).

Dear friends,

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 travellers’ 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).

Other projects are also the development of integrated financial tools and framework for the sustainable development of mountain, rural, gastronomic and spa tourism, as well as the upgrading of services and infrastructure for people with disabilities.

At the Ministry of Tourism, we firmly believe that by adopting innovative practices for the development of environmentally friendly and inclusive solutions, tourism businesses can not only increase their competitiveness, but also contribute to the long-term resilience of the country’s tourism ecosystem and local communities.

Unlocking innovative financing to promote sustainable investment across the tourism sector implies providing the right incentives in the value chain to promote sustainability and clearly demonstrates that investment decisions to promote sustainable and inclusive growth are not only business-friendly, but also necessary.

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 Tourism sector. Therefore, in order for our strategy concering the islands to be efficient, the following important factors should be considered:‎

  1. ‎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-made 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.‎

‎In this direction, the new Bill of the Ministry of Tourism for the creation ‎‎of Destination Management and Marketing Organizations (DMMOs)  that will be significantly enhanced by resources of the Recovery Fund‎‎, and that ensure tourism development in terms of sustainability and resilience, the protection of the natural environment of the destination, the promotion and management of local quality labels, the possibility of establishing observatories of sustainable tourism development, is considered important, with the aim of preserving the natural and cultural wealth of our country.‎

‎The resources of the Recovery Fund will be directed to the Financing of studies and preparation for the establishment of pilot Destination Management and Marketing Organizations (DMMOs) and the creation of local Observatories of Sustainable Tourism Development (in each pilot DMMO).‎

‎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.‎

‎So, let’s focus on all that makes us optimistic about a better future. Provided, however, that we have done our best in the present.‎

‎Thank you.‎