Greek cruise industry insiders are increasingly alarmed about the effect of the coronavirus epidemic on the tourist industry as Chinese bookings have stopped completely and the virus has spread to Italy, a major cruise connection point with Greece.
“We are very concerned about the news from Italy. Although there have been no cancellations of bookings in the last few days, we expect that this may well change,” says Theodoros Kontes, the President of the Union of Greek Cruise Ship Owners.
Speaking to Greek Reporter, Kontes says that earlier forecasts showing a 7-8 percent increase in cruise passengers to Greece for the year 2020 are now unlikely.
“We would be lucky if we maintain last year’s numbers. People are scared to travel,” he notes.
Kontes says that at present there are no cruise ships in Greece coming in from Italy, but Greek authorities’ concerns are focused on airports and the ports of Igoumenitsa and Patras, which are major transit points to and from Italy.
Kontes points out that “Greek authorities are taking all necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including the screening of all arrivals.”
Meanwhile, two Greek nationals repatriated last weekend from the cruiseship “Diamond Princess” have tested negative for Covid-19, the new strain of coronavirus that started an epidemic in China.
The two Greek citizens arrived at Sotiria, Athens’ pulmonary hospital, after an international effort to repatriate them and others from the quarantined cruiseship in Tokyo to their countries. They arrived at the Elefsina military air base on Saturday.
The individuals had received clean bills of health in tests which they had undergone in Tokyo and Rome, their stopover station before arriving in Greece.
On Sunday, two other Greek citizens were discharged from Sotiria, one of the hospitals assigned to handle coronavirus cases, after clearing all tests. They had been repatriated on February 9 from China and are in good health.
Worldwide coronavirus concerns have pushed the $45 billion cruise line industry to cancel trips and reroute ships as it struggles to contain the impact caused by concerned travelers.
Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises recently announced that between all their companies, they had canceled nearly 40 cruises and rerouted over 40 others.
Stock prices are down from between 10 percent to 16 percent across the three major cruise lines since January.
Carnival Cruise Lines told investors that continuing the existing travel restrictions through the month of May could lead to a 14 percent reduction in stock prices. Royal Caribbean said that additional cancellations could lead to a roughly 12 percent decrease in earnings this year.