More than 830 participants from 21 countries and 35 exhibitors from every facet of sea tourism framed the 5th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum, setting new attendance records for the biennial Athens Confex event that is fast becoming the bellwether for the state of the cruise and yachting sectors in the East Med and Black sea regions.
The Greek Ministers for Maritime Affairs and Tourism, officials from major port destination authorities, senior decision-makers from the world’s biggest cruise lines and representatives of marina and yacht owners associations shaped the forum’s agenda which comprised 20 hours of lively panel debates and informative presentations on the stage of Domotel Kastri Conference Centre, in Athens’ historical suburb.
“We are delighted with the positive response the Forum has received since making its debut in the international sea tourism agenda in 2011, and we are confident that it will continue to steer developments in the sector for years to come,” said Theodore Vokos, Managing Director, Posidonia Exhibitions S.A., the event’s organiser.
Delegates, panelists and key note speakers agree that the agenda-setting event has much to offer to sea tourism stakeholders with commercial interests harboured in East Med and the wider region.
Paul Britton, Manager, Marine Operations, Ports and Itinerary Planning, Disney Cruise Line, said: “It was my first time at the Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum, and it was great to meet and exchange views with old and new colleagues in a relaxed, quite intimate and very professionally run event. I look forward to attending again in the future.”
At the Forum, Britton announced the return of Disney Cruise Line to Greece this summer with port calls in Piraeus, Santorini, Mykonos and Katakolo and 12-night itineraries connecting marquee Aegean ports with Venice and the Adriatic.
Another company strengthening its presence in the region is MSC adding a fifth ship in East Med increasing its available capacity by 26.4%. Another ship will be deployed by MSC in 2020 to fuel capacity by a further 25%.
On the side lines of the 5th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum, Angelo Capurro, Executive Director, MSC Cruises S.A., said: “As we are always looking for alternative solutions for embarkation in the Eastern Mediterranean, it was great to meet key players of the industry and the region in the Forum and examine possibilities of new collaborations and opportunities. We are looking at the overall plans of MSC around the world until 2026, also in the number of ships that will come, so for us it is important to understand if there is a possibility to have embarkation or use partner-embarkation in this part of the East Med.”
The extra capacity by Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and other cruise lines will boost the number of Greece’s cruise passengers this season by 7%, according to the Greek Minister of Tourism, Thanasis Theocharopoulos, who opened the second day of the Forum, where he pledged the government’s aim to make Greece’s ports more attractive to cruise operators from an infrastructure point of view.
The Greek government’s stated commitment to the sector received positive reaction from international cruise industry players attending the 5th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum.
Claire Levitt, Destination Experience Deputy Manager, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “I am pleased to see that Greece, and the East Med in general, is so passionate about encouraging cruise calls to the region; and willing to take on board the feedback from cruise lines in how this can be achieved. As ever, these events are so important for networking and making contacts, in order to be able to work together to make our itineraries attractive to guests – not only generating future cruise calls, but also hopefully encouraging an increase in land-based holidays.”
Representing Royal Caribbean’s Technical Procurement department, Carla Douaihi, Global Procurement Manager, Royal Caribbean Cruises said: “We had the opportunity to work with the attendees to better explain the requirements to engage in business with us and provide recommendations to potential suppliers on developing their business with us. It was especially interesting to learn about well-established fabrics that are producing quality products that we could source through directly. I will go back home with an interest of potentially growing our business with the Greek manufacturers, and taking advantage of their direct business in its strategic location.”
The 5th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum was organised under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy and was supported by the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, CLIA Europe, the Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports (MEDCRUISE), the Hellenic Professional Yacht Owners Association, the Greek Marinas Association, the Association of Passenger Shipping Companies, the Union of Cruise Ship Owners & Associated Members, the Federation of Hellenic Associations of Tourist and Travel Agencies (fedHATTA). Gold Sponsor was the Greek National Tourism Organisation. Silver sponsors were the Piraeus Port Authority, HEMEXPO and the Thessaloniki Port Authority, Bronze Sponsors were Air France – KLM, Aktina Travel Group, Celestyal Cruises, Global Ports Holding and Intercruises Shoreside and Port Services and Supporters were the Athens International Airport and FBIS Security.