Small groups of scuba divers are taking guided tours this summer of Greece’s first underwater archaeological museum: the remains of a 2,500-year-old ship that sank near Alonnisos in the Sporades islands, with a cargo of clay amphoras containing wine. At another newly opened official diving site off the island of Kea, three historic shipwrecks — including a sister ship of the Titanic — are set to become prime attractions for divers with experience of deeper waters

 

July-August 2022 Greek Business File, Issue No 138

Tourism

by Kerin Hope

As recreational diving surges in popularity globally, Greece is beginning to exploit a unique marine heritage based on three millennia of trade and warfare around its 14,000km coastline in the east Mediterranean. Wreck diving tours led by local Greek instructors are seen as a niche offering for a growing number of holidaymakers looking for specialist activities that can also support sustainable tourism.

2,000 shipwrecks
The archaeological service has recorded about 2,000 shipwrecks in Greek waters. If the recreational diving sector expands as projected, about 90 of these are likely to be developed for tourism over the coming decade.

The global diving tourism market is set to reach almost $3 billion this year and grow to around $5 billion in 2032, according to Future Market Insights, a market research company. Total sales of diving tourism services already represent 4-6 percent of the global tourism market, it says.

Millennials travelling independently or on customised tours make up a significant segment of the market. In the Greek islands, scores of diving schools offer holiday packages, some linked with tour operators and hotels. These include short scuba diving courses leading to certifications issued by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, a globally recognised qualification. Tourism officials insist that this year Greece will reach 90 percent of revenues earned in 2019 — a record year — following two summers of Covid-19 restrictions. Inflows amounted to €18 billion that year on the back of a record 33 million arrivals. Diving companies report increased numbers of bookings this summer.

Wreck diving has become so popular in the United States that elderly vessels, including several decommissioned warships, are intentionally scuttled to provide destinations for diving enthusiasts. The wrecks also become artificial reefs that can sustain a colourful variety of marine life.

Greece’s competitive edge lies in the number of ancient shipwrecks wrecked along the classical-era trade routes through the Aegean islands that served important commercial cities like Athens and Corinth, says a culture ministry official. But Greek underwater archaeologists have also located 19th century passenger ships and freighters along with warships and aircraft sunk during the first and second world wars.

Alonnisos park
Alonnisos, a small green island with about 3,000 year-round residents, sits at the centre of the largest marine park in the Mediterranean covering 2,300 square kilometres. It was set up 30 years ago to protect the monk seal, monachus monachus, and other wildlife endangered by increasing tourism…

The full article is published in the July-August 2022 Greek Business Filehere.