The Yachting Expert.

Interview by Elsa Soimoiri

Michael Skoulikidis, President of the Greek Yachting Association (GYA) reveals the abundant aspects of Greek hospitality in luxury yachts.

Crystal clear waters, beautiful islands, hundreds upon hundreds of coasts to choose from…Yachting holidays are synonymous with the beauty of Greece’s incredible seas, and Michael Skoulikidis, luxury yachting expert and organizer of the Mediterranean Yacht Show, is one man who is highly knowledgeable about the secrets of their charm. The annual yacht show organized by the Greek Yachting Association and hosted in the coastal city of Nafplio has become an established event in the international yachting calendar attended by brokers and industry professionals from all over the world. Every year, the event grows in size and stature, exceeding all expectations in terms of participating yachts, representing the crème de la crème of professional crewed yachts.

The annual Mediterranean Yacht Show (MEDYS), which represents an important exhibition for professional crewed yacht charters, is the culmination of the activities of the Greek Yachting Association (over which you preside as President). What other initiatives are you taking to attract global attention from yacht brokers to Greek yachting?

The MEDYS has managed to steal the show globally in terms of professional crewed yacht charter events. It turns the spotlight on Greece which is of course a yachting paradise, but it also creates ambassadors throughout the world resulting from the amazing experience that we offer international attendees. Charter professionals from the four corners of the globe who attend the event have only the best to say about our country, i.e. the quality of our fleet, the inexhaustible list of destinations, the rich history, the favourable weather, the warm hospitality… And as we all know, ‘word of mouth’ is ultimately the most effective form of advertising.
At the same time, our association promotes its activities through various articles in renowned magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler and Boat International. We are also very active on social media via our Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. We are making every effort, using every means at our disposal, to promote Greece as a destination. With that being said, further promotional initiatives are needed in cooperation with state bodies such as the Greek National Tourism Organization if we wish to fully develop the potential of the Greek yachting industry. Much more needs to be done. For example, we would need to participate together with the Greek National Tourism Organization in the leading travel trade shows abroad as well as advertise Greek maritime tourism in international specialized publications

What are your expectations for the upcoming show?

The MEDYS has created a tradition: every year proves to be better than the last. We’re seeing newer and larger boats participate, the number of exhibitors is continuously growing, the chefs’ competition has become increasingly challenging and the social networking events hosted in historic sites throughout Nafplio are hugely successful. The initial feedback that we have received concerning the upcoming show indicates that the MEDYS 2024 will continue the tradition and be marked by great success.

I am optimistic that 2024 will be a good year as the market will level out giving Greece the opportunity to stand out as a top destination for luxury yachting vacations.

Michael Skoulikidis

How do you believe Greece’s share of the pie in this specialized market can grow?

We definitely need more intense and aggressive marketing and advertising, online campaigns and an enhanced social media presence. We need to be able to communicate with the next generation and speak their language whilst still fully respecting the international specialized publications that do continue to influence our audience. We also need to attend major global events such as the Monaco Yacht Show, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and the MYBA Charter Show. We would need to team up with the Greek National Tourism Organization with a dedicated stand at these events which is something that Australia actually did in 2023, at the MYBA Charter Show and Monaco Yacht Show. Enriching our fleet is also important. More modern yachts mean more choice.

Do you believe that Athenian Riviera redevelopment and other projects currently under implementation have the capacity to attract more global travelers seeking yacht charters?

The completion of the redevelopment of the Athenian Riviera will definitely add a new dimension to Greek yachting. It will add the element of luxury lifestyle, a lifestyle that has made the south of France so popular with its fast pace, luxurious nightlife, expensive shops and haute cuisine, all elements that make the region particularly attractive to UHNWIs. On the other hand, when it comes to visiting Greece, they are attracted by our crystal-clear waters, enchanting beaches, history, culture, privacy, tranquility, authenticity and simplicity. An upgraded Athenian Riviera will provide travelers with the opportunity to combine the best of both worlds and this will offer us yet another competitive advantage.

The MEDYS has managed to steal the show globally in terms of professional crewed yacht charter events.

Michael Skoulikidis

Will the redevelopment of both the Alimos and Astir Marinas on Athens’ coastal front solve the berthing problem in Athens?

While the development of the coastal front will contribute to the creation of a number of berths, it will not solve the problem completely. Greece has one of the largest fleets of large yachts (over 40 meters) in the world and, in recent years, many of them couldn’t find a place to dock. The fact is that the Greek fleet is growing rapidly and thousands more berths are needed, with the Attica region facing the biggest problem. If we add the needs of passing vessels for quality mooring services, it becomes pretty evident that the new berths offered by both the Alimos and Astir Marinas just won’t be able to meet the growing demand.

Do you believe that the Greek fleet of crewed yachts is able to satisfy the needs and desires of even the most demanding traveler?

Our boats are on a par with the boats operating in the south of France, Italy and Spain. Greek crews have improved by leaps and bounds in recent years and the services they offer can certainly cover the needs and wants of even the most discerning guests. Our captains, sailors and engineers are known for their seamanship, they know all the hidden secrets of our seas and islands – many of the yacht chefs have been employed in Michelin-starred restaurants and are extremely talented and creative – lastly, the interior crew receive ongoing training in order to be able to respond to any given request with discretion and finesse.

What do you believe is in store for maritime tourism in 2024? What are the messages you have received from the market so far?

In 2023 we saw a decline in charters, something that we had predicted would happen after the two exceptional years (2021 and 2022) that our industry experienced. The correction was expected because travel restrictions are no longer in place and destination options for charterers have expanded. The market is extremely competitive but I am optimistic that 2024 will be a good year as the market will level out giving Greece the opportunity to stand out as a top destination for luxury yachting vacations.

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