'Greece could become global yachting hub'

Greece could become a global yachting hub, Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) general secretary George Vernicos said on Wednesday, addressing the final day of the Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum 2011.
With the waves of the crisis having strongly hit sea tourism as well, Vernicos said, Greece was the ideal destination for yachting, and that could not be changed by the crisis.
He also called for an open dialogue in order to put in place clear-cut goals for the development of yachting in Greece.
The first target, he said, should be an ever-increasing number in the Greek seas of Greek-flag yachts "that give life to the remote islands". In that respect, Vernicos called for a fixed tax framework and protection of the sectors' professionals.
On infrastructures, such as marinas and anchorages, Vernicos said these needed modernisation, noting that professional boats were already leaving Greece for other countries such as Turkey, Croatia and Montenegro.
Hellenic Professional Yacht Owners Association president Antonis Steliatos outlined the situation in the field with dark colors, noting that bookings of crewed professional yachts had dropped by more than 80 percent in 2010 against the previous year, adding that a number of yachts remained anchored even today, since demand did not correspond to supply. This, he said, has a direct impact on the labor market as well, in this specific branch, and of the 6,000 seasonal workers employed on professional yachts, it is estimated that only half will be employed again this year.
For the branch's exit from the "intensive care unit", Steliatos said that a targeted promotional campaign abroad is necessary, as well as modernisation of the infrastructures and training of the people working on professional boats.

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