According to news from GTP, Dolphin Capital Partners (Dolphin), hospitality real estate investors and developers just revealed plans to offer a luxury experience at sea with the launch of the first floating hotel in Greece. While many are heralding the Dolphin’s entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, the question of sustainable tourism practice looms large.
The news tells of Dolphin having already purchased a 180-meter mega yacht which will be reconstructed to serve as a floating hotel. Miltos Kambourides, the co-founder and managing partner of Dolphin, had this to say at a media briefing in Athens:
“This is very strategic move for Dolphin, in addition to our investments in real estate, as we believe that a sector in Greece that has yet to be developed is the sector of sea tourism.”
This may be well and good for investors keen to fill gaps in the market for seabound tourism, but for a country already in the midst of an overtourism crisis putting more cruisers ashore should give every decisionmaker some pause. The story of Dolphin’s new luxury ship docking at select Greek ports may sound like a value-added proposition, but is it?
Even if the passengers on this new luxury love boat (excuse the pun) are upscale tourists, boat vacationers just don’t always contribute to local economies. Even the well to do tend to spend less on food and trinkets than their airborne contemporaries traveling abroad. All-inclusive, whether it is a budget beach resort or a luxury cruise ship, tends to put the money in one pocket. And there are environmental issues to be considered. A floating hotel is going to use one hell of a lot of gas, and leave a gigantic eco-footprint, that is unless Dolphin goes high tech with there refitting of the mega-yacht.
According to Kambourides, Dolphin has plans to operate seven floating hotels all over the world. This prompts me to exclaim – “Just what the world needs, seven more carbon munching cruise ships.” While there’s no news of which superyacht Dolphin has purchased, even the newest luxury ships have a telling environmental wake. Take the Superyacht Azzam, which is actually the only 180-meter superyacht in the world. The shallow draft ship is ideal for cruising the isles of the Aegean, but the yacht’s 23,500 hp gas or diesel engines alone produce a horrendous carbon per passenger catastrophe.
These yachts are not designed to carry 200 passengers, you know? If Dolphin bought this ship from the United Arab Emirates royal family, how many more cabins will the firm add? The ship currently berths 22 passengers.
Founded in 2004, Dolphin is primarily active in tourism and experiential entertainment, both through private equity management and direct investment by the group. The firm has invested in Amanzoe Resort, the first Nikki Beach hotel in Europe, the new Kilada Hills Golf Resort in Porto Heli, among others. The latter will be the first Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course in Greece.
There’s no doubt that Dolphin Capital Partners is capable and even expert at creating amazing hospitality and travel experiences, as we’ve seen with their past projects. However, without any indication the group intends a forward edge cruising ship development, I have to be skeptical. Greece, in particular, is not in need of more supra-capitalistic investments in the sector. Santorini is already awash in the wake of hundreds of cruise ships, and the rest of the Aegean Islands are not far behind.
The cruise industry has done a great job with their PR companies practicing reputation management, but if you look deeper you’ll find reports like this one on the negative impacts of the industry. And this report on Ship Technology from two years ago supports all of my points. In short, the benefits of cruising do not come close to outweighing the negatives. Put another way, simply “showing” some rich people Crete or Santorini may be fun and profitable for Dolphin, but the locals won’t benefit one bit.
It will be interesting to find out how Dolphin intends fitting out this new ship, engineering-wise. And, the prospectus for the ship’s itinerary will tell us a lot about whether or not Dolphin is thinking sustainably. I’ll reach out to the firm to find some answers.
Until then, Greece vested interests need to start the deep think on these issues.