Regional cruiser increases trips to Turkey despite cancelations
Güneş Kömürcüler - ISTANBULWhile many cruise companies have canceled their trips to Turkey over security concerns, Eastern Mediterranean-based Celestyal Cruises has increased its number of voyages to the country.
“We have strong ties [and] relations [with] Turkey and we will strengthen our ties by increasing our trips to the country. For our new ship, Celestyal Nefeli, we have chosen Turkey as the main port,” said Celestyal Cruises CEO Kyriakos Anastassiadis during a press meeting in Istanbul.
With global fears about terrorism influencing travel and tourism, many cruise lines have been eyeing itineraries which do not include Turkey, with some canceling planned port stops in 2016 after a series of suicide bomb attacks in the country.
“We cannot develop this area without including Turkey, which is the fabric of the region… Over the last three years we have dedicated ships to the Turkish market. We view the security of our clients and our crews as the most important thing. Thanks to great services by local police and authorities, we have absolute comfort and safety about protecting them. As a company, we are committed to offer services in this part of the world. And it is unthinkable for us to exclude Turkey,” said Anastassiadis.
A board member of Karavan Tourism, Celestyal Cruises’ representative in Turkey, Gianluigi Baltazzi, said regional companies have chosen to stay and extend their presence in Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean.
“One of the most important features of Celestyal is its regionality… [The] Turkish tourism sector has faced serious problems this year due to geopolitical reasons. While several global cruisers leave, regional companies stay and extend. Turkey is a very crucial market for Celestyal… We will operate a ship which is only dedicated to the Turkish market from the beginning of May to the end of September,” he noted.
‘35 pct decline in region’
Baltazzi, who is also the head of the cruise committee of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), noted that all cruise companies have seen a decline of around 35 percent in their trips in the Eastern Mediterranean due to security concerns, but they have opened new ports in the region to overcome the losses.
In this vein, the company has opened more than 20 destinations in the region to tourism in the last couple of years.
Celestyal Cruises Vice President of Sales Pythagoras Nagos noted there were some 3,000 islands in Greece, 150 of which were inhabited.
“Some 15 islands are in our list, although other companies travel to only four or five islands. And because of the size of our ships, small or medium-scaled, we can dock in the ports with poorer infrastructure as well as to the bigger ports. We have decided to add three or five new destinations to our program every year,” he added.
The new ship will start its trips in May, anchoring in the Aegean ports of İzmir, Kuşadası and Çeşme in Turkey. Two of the company’s other ships will dock in the Kuşadası and Istanbul ports 165 times a year, bringing around 150,000 foreign tourists to Turkey, according to company representatives.
Company representatives also said there were around 80,000 Turkish cruise tourists and their company aimed to carry 45,000 Turks in 2016 after carrying 10,000 Turks in 2014 and 25,000 in 2015.
While the total number of travelers has hit 1.6 billion across the world, only 24 million of them travel by cruise ship, but the development rate in the cruising sector in the last five years was four-times higher than any other sector.
On the global map, the area with the highest number of cruise passengers is the Caribbean, followed by the Mediterranean, according to sector players.