Greek, Cypriot and Israeli ports prepare to welcome cruise passengers again.
The heads of some of the world's largest cruise companies will participate in the first online panel discussion to open the 6th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum (PSTF) on 25 May.
Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, Michael Thamm, Group CEO of Costa Group and Carnival Asia, Wybcke Meier, CEO of TUI Cruises and Chris Theofilidis, CEO of Celestyal Cruises, will exchange views in the first session of the day, entitled "The reboot of cruising in Europe and the Mediterranean".
Industry leaders will present their companies' initiatives for operating cruise in the post-pandemic era, as well as their vision for the relaunch and the health and safety measures and protocols their companies will implement during this transitional period. They will also discuss the reasons why the Eastern Mediterranean is emerging as a cruise hotspot this year, with the region hosting the most cruise itineraries in Europe in 2021.
Aida, Celebrity, Costa, Hapag Lloyd, MSC, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea and TUI, along with Celestyal Cruises, have planned major cruise programmes in the Eastern Mediterranean for this summer season. Piraeus will be the homeport for cruise ships from Azamara Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Celestyal Cruises, Holland America Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Seabourn Cruises and Silversea Cruises. In fact, Celebrity has chosen Greece's largest port for the world debut of its newest ship, Celebrity Apex. Still, Corfu and Heraklion in Greece, Limassol in Cyprus and Haifa in Israel are ports that stand out in the companies' homeporting plans.
"Following the geopolitical problems that have hindered the growth of cruising in the Eastern Mediterranean in recent years, the industry is now choosing the region as the main location for its successful relaunch in Europe," said Pierfrancesco Vago, President of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, who will present the current state of the industry in his opening remarks.
The sessions of the one-day Forum will address the impact of the new sanitary protocols on shore excursions and destination management, the immediate environmental challenges and the impact of pandemic COVID-19 on port operations and development.
A special session will be dedicated to the prospects of the 2021 season for cruise tourism in Greece, as the country relies on international visitor arrivals to boost its economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism revenues. Greece, like all cruise destinations, lost significant revenue last year due to the suspension of most of the world's cruise travel. CLIA estimates that the damage to the global economy was huge, exceeding $77 billion, causing the loss of 518,000 jobs.
"The recovery of the cruise industry will not be a journey in calm waters. The seas will be rough, but the determination and will of all those involved in the cruise industry will help the industry weather the storm caused by the pandemic and lead the industry to calmer waters and safer ports," said Theodoros Vokos, CEO of Poseidonia Exhibitions S.A., organizer of the event.
"The timing of this year's PSTF is ideal, as we will have the opportunity to take the pulse of the global cruise industry in near real time, within just two weeks of its official resumption of activities," he added.
Registration for the PSTF is free for members of the marine tourism and shipping community. The online platform allows participants to ask questions and the video sessions will be available on demand for all registered users until 10 June 2021.
Sponsors and exhibitors will showcase their products and services in the virtual "Exhibition Centre", which consists of digital kiosks and will include information material and videos. The PSTF exhibition will be accessible via the platform from 24 May to 10 June 2021.
Gold sponsor of the 6th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum is the National Tourism Organisation. Silver sponsors are Heraklion Port Authority, Indev Software, MedCruise and Piraeus Port Authority, while Bronze sponsors are Alba Graduate Business School, Celestyal Cruises and Thessaloniki Port Authority. The Forum is organised under the auspices of the Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy and the Ministry of Tourism and is supported by the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, the International Association of Cruise Lines (CLIA), the Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports and the Association of Cruise Ship Owners and Shipping Operators.