Greek tourism enterprises are not seeing cancellations for vacations this season, but new bookings have been delayed due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Yiannis Retsos, said on Monday.

“The development of bookings for 2022 was very positive at the beginning of the year… However, the unexpected war in Ukraine occurred and now we have a ‘freeze’ in bookings,” Retsos told journalists during a press conference focused on the expectations and challenges of the sector in 2022.

SETE’s president highlighted that no forecasts can be made for Greece’s 2022 tourism year since the industry is moving in “uncharted waters” due to the war in Ukraine.

However, he pointed out that after two years of restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the appetite for travel this year is high and international travel demand is expected to recover.

“If the (Russian-Ukrainian) conflict stops in the near future, I believe that we will see a strong resumption of bookings, perhaps even at better levels than before,” Retsos said, adding that regardless of the war, 2022 is expected to be another year based on last minute bookings due to the pandemic.

Despite the delay in bookings, Retsos appeared optimistic and pointed out that Greek tourism numbers from the beginning of the year were showing that the industry was on a path leading to the levels of 2019 and even exceeding them.

With regard to data from Germany and Britain, Greece’s top two tourist markets, Retsos said early bookings from the UK market are at a very satisfying level. Early bookings from Germany at the moment are at a lower level but are expected to pick up in the coming weeks. He added that the Scandinavian market is also showing a high interest for holidays to Greece while the Polish market at the moment remains a “question mark” due to the war in Ukraine.

With regard to road tourism, he said that it is unclear at the moment whether people from the Balkan markets will travel to Northern Greece this year.

He also referred to the positive signs from the US market considering the number of flights to Greece scheduled for the season.

Concern about inflation, energy costs

Moreover, Retsos expressed his strong concern about the rise in inflation and the possible increase of interest rates that will affect the loan obligations of hotel enterprises. He stressed that hotels, having low revenues for the last two years due to the pandemic, are operating right now in an environment with an 8 percent increase of the minimum wage for 2022 and increased energy costs.

Retsos informed that SETE raised these issues in a recent meeting attended by the ministers of tourism, labor and finance, and discussed how to reduce the impact on tourism businesses. At the moment, the government has agreed to extend the Syn-ergasia job retention program in Greece for April-May, while discussions on reducing VAT rates for services provided in the travel package (accommodation, F&B, transport) are also taking place.

Loopholes in short-term rental law

SETE’s president also referred to the loopholes in the legislation that involves the short-term rental sector in Greece.

He stressed that companies are taking advantage of certain loopholes and are opening complexes with dozens of apartments for short-term rental while at the same time offering hospitality services, including F&B services and wellness amenities.

“Instead of operating as hotels, they choose the short-term rental market… This leads to lost revenue from VAT for the Greek state and unfair competition for hotels,” he said.

Greek hotels see worker shortage

Retsos also focused on the shortage of employees in the tourism sector. Hotels alone in 2021 saw a some 22 percent lack of employees, based on research conducted by the SETE Institute with data from ITEP (Institute of Tourism Research and Forecasts).

Aiming to address the issue, Retsos announced that SETE and Marketing Greece will soon launch an online campaign to raise awareness on the major economic importance of tourism for the country.

Greek Tourism 2030 | Action Plan

Highlighting the need for long-term strategic planning for the Greek tourism sector, which must include synergies and cooperation with the country’s regions, SETE’s president announced that the confederation is scheduled to present its “Greek Tourism 2030 | Action Plan” at the 7th Delphi Economic Forum on Saturday, April 9.

According to SETE’s action plan, under certain conditions, Greece could attract up to 50 million visitors by 2030 while revenue from Greek tourism could rise to an annual 27 billion euros.

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Delphi, Greece. Photo: GTP

The recovery efforts and challenges of the 2022 tourism season will be discussed during the 7th Delphi Economic Forum 2022 that is scheduled to take place in the town of Delphi, Central Greece, during April 6-9.

Politicians, tourism officials and entrepreneurs will discuss on ways to maintain safety and accelerate tourism growth amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia – Ukraine war crisis.

The forum’s tourism agenda includes the following topics:

– growth and competitiveness opportunities for Greek tourism
– improving education, skills and employment
– investment in hospitality and tourism
– overtourism and efforts to achieve sustainable tourism.

Furthermore, during the forum, the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) will present the results of its ongoing survey titled “Greek Tourism 2030 | Action Plans” that is jointly conducted by Deloitte – Remaco on behalf of its research body INSETE.

Among the forum’s speakers are Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias; Deputy Tourism Minister Sofia Zacharaki; Greek National Tourism Organization Secretary General Dimitris Fragakis; Tourism Policy Secretary General Olympia Anastasopoulou; SETE President Yiannis Retsos; Marketing Greece CEO Ioanna Dretta; Hellenic Chamber of Hotels President Alexandros Vassilikos; Crowne Plaza Director of Experience and Communication Emmanouela Moussama; HotelBrain Founder Panos Paleologos; SWOT Hospitality President Stelios Koutsivitis; Leopard Hospitality Leon Avigad and many more.

The theme of the 7th Delphi Economic Forum is “New realities”.

Greek culture

The forum will also attempt to highlight the challenges and opportunities for Greece’s cultural heritage with discussions focusing on the following issues:

– climate change and its impact on cultural heritage
– preservation of cultural and natural heritage
– culture innovation and systemic change
– arts and investments
– culture and gender equality.

Archaeological Museum of Delphi. Photo source: Ministry of Culture

Among the forum’s speakers are Culture Minister Lina Mendoni; British Novelist Victoria Hislop; Europa Nostra Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović; and Principal Advisor to the Greek PM George Kremlis, among many others.

The Delphi Economic Forum 2022 will take place as a live event in Delphi during April 6-9.

The forum’s sessions will be available online free of charge at www.delphiforum.gr (registration is required).

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Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias on Saturday expressed concern on the impact the Russia-Ukraine conflict will have on Greek tourism, considering that the industry is a major nation-wide generator of income.

Speaking to Mega channel on Saturday, Kikilias said that 25 percent of Greece’s GDP comes from tourism.

“Right now we are waiting to see how much the tourist flows to Greece will be affected as we had 400,000 tourists from Ukraine and whether the increased energy rates will affect the movement of travelers,” the tourism minister said, adding that the current figures involving bookings and airline tickets for travel to Greece are encouraging as is the travel interest from major inbound markets.

“We will do everything possible to fill any gaps, if any… We are doing what we can to increase the possibilities to host people for a longer period of time, as well as welcome more ‘high-end tourists’, which would mean more foreign exchange in the country,” Kikilias stressed.

Greece is opening early to tourism this year in an aim to extend the season and keep visitors coming until December.

Moreover, Kikilias and Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis on Friday made a first assessment of the effects of the Ukrainian crisis in their areas of responsibility.

Following a meeting, Kikilias and Karamanlis highlighted that the ministries of tourism and transport are cooperating closely to fully prepare for Greece’s upcoming tourism season.

The two ministries will be in constant contact, to address any problems that may arise, considering that tourism is directly connected with air and road connections.

“Prevention is better than cure and we must be ready for the tourist season,” Karamanlis said, adding that 85 percent of the country’s visitors use air transport.

“It is very important that our airports and our entire air navigation system are ready to welcome, what we want to hope to be a record year for Greek tourism… The transport ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority must be ready to deal with any issues that arise in a summer period,” he said.

SETE: Impact will show in the coming weeks

On his part, the president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) Yiannis Retsos said the effects on Greek tourism from the Russian invasion of Ukraine will be more clear in the coming weeks.

In a Twitter post, Retsos said that right now it is too early to speak with certainty about the effects on tourism.

SETE’s president said that the developments in Ukraine are shocking and the most important thing is to stop the invasion, to protect human life and to return to peace.

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Photo © Greek Travel Pages (GTP)

Photo © Greek Travel Pages (GTP)

The Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) is calling on the government to revise Covid-19 health protocols and facilitate travel ahead of the tourism season ensuring the country keeps its competitive edge.

In a letter to Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias and other government officials, SETE is requesting:

– the removal of the PLF (Passenger Locator Form) requirement for travelers with a valid Covid Digital Certificate 

– the same validity period for Covid certificates in Greece and abroad 

– travelers staying at Airbnb-style accommodation and found to be infected with Covid-19 should quarantine at the rental and not at a quarantine hotel. 

SETE President Yiannis Retsos

SETE President Yiannis Retsos said the PLF form should be removed for remaining categories of travelers as of April 1, 2022.

“The pandemic developments today and the prevailing conditions have nullified the purpose for which the measure was introduced – under current rules there is no longer any reason to ‘locate’ travelers,” SETE said in its letter.

Additionally, the association underlines the importance of ensuring that all Covid certificate holders are allowed into food and drink establishments with testing requirements. In Greece vaccination certificates are valid for a period of seven months after the last vaccination whereas in the EU it is nine months after “creating problems in the operation of businesses and unnecessary inconvenience to visitors”, SETE said.

The trade body said the rule creates inconsistent conditions where on the one hand travelers can enter the country but on the other, they need tests to dine.

Last week, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and its European partner organizations called on the EU to implement a coordinated approach to the validity period of the EU Digital Covid Certificate.

“The validity period of the vaccination certificate should be common for all uses as should the age limit for children required to present a vaccination or recovery certificate or negative diagnostic result,” said SETE requesting the age limit currently at five years should be set to four years.

Quarantine hotels

Lastly, SETE proposes that quarantine hotels continue to operate this year as they did in 2021 with the exception of Covid-19 cases found in travelers staying at short-term rentals, in which case quarantine should be covered by the provider.

“Quarantine hotels were set up to serve tourists who visit the country and stay in legally licensed tourist accommodation, something which can be verified. Any cases identified in the short-term leases should remain in the properties booked,” SETE said.

Additionally, SETE is also proposing the option of allowing Covid-infected hotel customers to remain in their room until the end of quarantine as long as they cover the cost of accommodation.

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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Photo source: @primeministerGR

“The Greek tourism industry will emerge stronger from the pandemic,” said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday, after a presentation via teleconference by the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) of a national action plan for the sector.

Mitsotakis thanked all who worked on the “National Action Plan for Tourism”, which he described as being “structured and holistically designed”.

The prime minister expressed his confidence that Greece and its tourism industry would “come out winners from the pandemic crisis”. 

“The country is currently in very good shape in terms of its international image,” he said, adding that Greece has significant advantages when it comes to the latest tourism and travel trends which include a shift towards wellness, experiences, culture, connection, and coexistence with nature. 

“Now is the time to implement a long-term strategic plan that will be able to highlight all these very important comparative advantages,” he said.

Greek Tourism Plan to Kickstart Cooperation

SETE presented the final version of the “Greek Tourism 2030 | Action Plan” study conducted jointly by Deloitte – Remaco on behalf of INSETE, SETE’s research branch.

The study provides data aimed at helping policymakers draw up a national tourism strategy and implement actions that will lead to the extension of the tourism season, improve the share of tourist activity and demand countrywide, and increase the average length of stay and tourist spending in the coming years. It also explores ways to further develop Greek tourist offerings and products in terms of destination and clusters across the country.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Photo source: Dimitris Papamitsos / Greek Prime Minister’s Office

“SETE presented the prime minister with the National Action Plan for Greek Tourism fulfilling its role and responsibility as a social partner. It is the beginning of a public consultation on tourism in the new era,” said SETE President Yiannis Retsos via his twitter account. 

Retsos described the action plan as a “roadmap for tourism to enter the new era. This study meets the needs of the times and takes into account the particular characteristics of the tourism sector, which is dynamic and adapts to developments”.

SETE’s chief added that the goal was for the National Action Plan to kickstart public consultation both centrally and regionally “because the successful implementation of any strategy requires partners”. 

Teleconference participants, including Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, acknowledged the resilience of the sector in 2021, and the fact that it managed to exceed all forecasts and challenges.

Greece achieved its goal for 2021 recovering approximately 50 percent of pre-pandemic tourism revenues and exceeding initial expectations.

The Bank of Greece projects that the Greek economy can grow at a rate of 5 percent this year if the tourism sector continues its strong performance.

Mitsotakis said it was crucial to rethink and learn from Covid-19 and to plan ahead for the successful branding of Greece in the post-pandemic era.

“I estimate that the year ahead will be a year of transition with a very intense pace of tourist traffic, as long as all goes well with Covid-19.”

The prime minister added that the priority was now on “turning this important text into an action line”, he said.

Kikilias referred to the importance of the action plan, which not only identifies new tourism products but details ways to develop these and examines each destination separately as well as its key role in decision and policy making.

“It can potentially serve as a model for any destination in the country that aims to develop tourism,” he said, adding that it can also provide policy direction to the DMOs (Destination Management Organizations) that will be created under newly passed tourism legislation.

Last week, Deputy Finance Minister Theodoros Skylakakis approved 55 projects, including key tourism investments, budgeted at 3.35 billion euros to be funded by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan “Greece 2.0”.

Participating in the teleconference were among others Minister of State George Gerapetritis, Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister Akis Skertsos, Deputy Tourism Minister Sofia Zacharaki, CEO Marketing Greece Ioanna Dretta, and INSETE Research Director Aris Ikkos.

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SETE President Yiannis Retsos

Yiannis Retsos, the head of Greece’s tourism confederation (SETE), said this week that revenue predictions for 2021 were in line with SETE forecasts of 10 billion euros compared to the recent “optimistic projections” of 12 billion euros, adding that the sector would be contributing 2 points to the country’s GDP growth this year.

Retsos’ forecast – made during the “Greek Tourism: A National Affair: workshop held over the weekend – is above the initial outlook made before the launch of the tourist season in May but below the ambitious projections made later in the year based on summer and fall performance.

Citing Bank of Greece data for the 10-month period at 8.75 billion euros, “this year,” Retsos said, “the country’s tourism revenues will surely reach 10-10.2 billion euros,” adding that in the last quarter of the year, Greece will manage to recoup roughly 65 percent of 2019 levels, or around 1.3-1.4 billion euros.

Retsos went on to add that a target of 15 billion euros in 2022 was feasible.

Photo source: Visit Greece

Photo source: Visit Greece

Tourism officials are now expressing concern over the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and its impact on tourism.

Greece is entering uncharted waters, they say, adding that Omicron is dampening optimistic outlooks. According to their estimates, Greece’s winter destinations, already hit hard by Covid-19 over the past two years, are set to experience another blow as one by one countries across Europe are reinstating bans and travel restrictions. 

According to sector stakeholders attending this year’s 5th Hospitality Forum organized by the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels (HCH) on Saturday, despite demand for travel, bookings are still lagging with the exception of popular winter destinations such as Arachova, Karpenisi, Kalvryta and Pelion. 

Tourism insiders expect occupancy rates to range between 60-80 percent over the 12-day holiday season. Speaking ahead of the event last week, HCH President Alexandros Vassilikos said Greek tourism was in for a tough winter ahead. “There are already many cancellations,” he said.

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Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, Hellenic Hoteliers Federation President Grigoris Tasios and Deputy Interior Minister responsible for Macedonia and Thrace Stavros Kalafatis.

Greek tourism this season may have saw a rebound better than expected, but the country’s hotels still have ‘a long way to go’ to cover the losses of 2020 and 2021 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, says Hellenic Hoteliers Federation President Grigoris Tasios.

Speaking on Friday during the annual meeting of the presidents of Greece’s hotelier associations, held on the sidelines of the Philoxenia tourism exhibition in Thessaloniki, the federation’s president said that Greek hoteliers managed to keep Greece in the lead as a destination thanks to their professionalism, exemplary responsibility and the hard work of all in the tourism secor.

“This was a process that was not easy for Greek hotels… Sacrifices were made and even if we managed to reduce the losses to -40 percent of 2019 levels, we still have a long way to go to cover the deficits of 2020 and 2021,” he stressed.

The federation’s president said that Greek hoteliers will stand united in tourism and continue “the struggle for survival” step by step and rebuild endurance.

“However, the state must continue to support the industry in order for us to face the great challenge of continuing tourism activity in the autumn and winter,” Tasios said.

He said that the 2,000 year-round hotels that are operating in city centers, in countryside towns and especially in mountainous destinations are giving a battle to remain afloat after “two lost tourism years”.

Moreover, Tasios underlined that the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted a series of major problems that make everyday life difficult and affect the competitiveness of Greek hotels.

“The return to normalcy from March 2022 that we are hoping for requires immediate interventions to past issues or those created under exceptional circumstances, such as increased energy costs,” Tasios stressed.

With regard to past issues that still linger over the sector, Tasios referred to the operation of unlicensed accommodation units; short-term rentals, which still operate without rules and health protocols; the high VAT (value added tax) on hotels, compared to the competition; and the additional single property tax (ENFIA) charged on hotels.

SETE: We need to think and plan outside the pandemic

Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) President Yiannis Retsos echoed Tasios and referred to a difficult winter ahead due to the ongoing pandemic and rising energy costs.

“This year’s tourism season comes to a close on a positive note, much better than expected. However, the winter months, with Covid-19 and rising energy costs, will be difficult, but we need to start work for ‘the day after’, think and plan outside the pandemic,” SETE’s president said.

Retsos highlighted that Greece needs to manage its destinations, with a focus on improving infrastructure and creating quality products that are based on experiences – which is now the main demand of the traveler – and promoting them properly.

“In 2022, where safety will remain a major issue, our country will benefit again, because it is something that has succeeded it after two successful covid seasons. From 2023 onwards, however, competition will be relentless and we will be unforgivable if we rest on our laurels,” he said.

Tourism Minister: Campaign for winter tourism coming up

With regard to the concerns expressed by hoteliers on business this winter, Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias said that the ministry is preparing to launch a “very tasteful” campaign for winter and alternative tourism that will target both the domestic and international markets to attract more visitors.

“For the first time in the country, in collaboration with the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO), we will run a campaign for city breaks in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities but, mainly, for the countryside and the other Greek regions that have destinations of unparalleled beauty, which the traveler, especially the one coming from abroad, should get to know,” he said.

Cooperation and professionalism is essential

Moreover, the tourism minister said he is positive that Greek tourism will overcome difficulties and called for cooperation and professionalism.

“Today I had the opportunity to listen very carefully to the professionals in the field, the issues, problems and needs they have,” he said after attending the annual meeting of the presidents of Greece’s hotelier association.

“I would like to emphasize that we must be careful, work professionally, cooperate with each other and certainly face the difficulties that exist. Difficulties that have to do with the pandemic throughout Europe, not only in Greece. I am convinced that we will overcome this,” the minister said.

Hellenic Hoteliers Federation President Grigoris Tasios and Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias.

Kikilias also appeared positive for Greek tourism’s performance in 2022.

“It is November and tourism is still adding to the country’s GDP and of course, the deals we are making for 2022 are very encouraging,” he said, also referring to the European Commission’s revision to its outlook for growth in Greece to 7.1% percent.

“An important part of this growth is due to the fact that our tourism revenues have been revised upwards,” Kikilias said, reminding that forecasts for Greece’s tourism revenue in 2021 were at 5-6 billion euros.

“And now, before the end of the year and because we still have visitors in many of the country’s destinations, we are approaching 12 billion euros,” the minister added, citing encouraging data from SETE, tourism professionals and the Bank of Greece.

The annual meeting of the presidents of Greece’s hotelier associations was also attended by Deputy Tourism Minister Sofia Zacharaki, Deputy Interior Minister responsible for Macedonia and Thrace Stavros Kalafatis, the Greek Secretary General for Tourism Policy & Development Vicky Loizou, GNTO President Angela Gerekou, GNTO Secretary General Dimitris Fragakis and Hellenic Chamber of Hotels President Alexandros Vassilikos.

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Greece may have exceeded revenues and arrivals projections for 2021, but Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) President Yiannis Retsos is still reluctant to express optimism in view of limited liquidity for hundreds of Greek accommodation enterprises.

“A four-month tourism season is not enough to cover massive losses,” said Retsos.

According to the Hellenic Hoteliers Federation, hotel businesses have so far this year recouped 60 percent of 2019 turnover levels.

Retsos said the overall “climate of euphoria” was premature adding that the Covid-19 pandemic is still causing damages to tourism enterprises. 

A key challenge for most business owners, Retsos said, is finding ways to secure liquidity.

In a letter to Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and Development & Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis, Retsos is claiming that funding approved and announced by the government has still not reached impacted businesses.

Retsos reminds that in a previous letter sent in September, SETE proposed a series of actions that would facilitate the disbursement of funding as well as enable eligible businesses to apply for grants.

He went on to add, that there were unjustified delays in application approval as well as with approved program disbursements.

SETE’s chief reiterated that the tourism sector has been a key driving force of the Greek economy in times of crisis and yet the majority of accommodation enterprises are still struggling to get by and is calling on the government to take immediate and consistent action.

Speaking at SETE’s general assembly in June, Retsos highlighted seven major challenges for country’s tourism sector in the short and long term as a result of the coronavirus  pandemic.

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Greek journalist Ilias Bellos, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, Athens International Airport (AIA) CEO Yiannis Paraschis and TEMES SA Chairman Achilles Constantakopoulos.

Greece is setting ambitious goals hoping to become a leader in sustainable tourism development, said Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias during the 1st Athens ESG & Climate Crisis Summit by Kathimerini this week.

The target, Kikilias said during a panel discussion on “Climate Crisis and the European Green Deal” is to slash by 50 percent plastic waste found in the sea and a ban on fishing in 10 percent of the country’s waters.

The minister underlined the importance of investments that will focus on sustainability and referred to projects in Pylos that have implemented a holistic approach to sustainable development effectively integrating economic, environmental and social goals.

The government, Kikilias said, is aiming to introduce “measures of success”. Sustainability for tourism is all about the value created in local communities, sustainable growth, fair distribution of benefits, and quality of life and prosperity, he added.

Water reservoir, Costa Navarino, Pylos.

In this direction, Kikilias said a new bill covering sustainability in tourism will also include the operation of DMOs (Destination Management Organization) and stressed that procedures will be simplified so that new practices can be implemented immediately. He added that the bill includes cooperation between the private and public sectors as well as tools to facilitate sustainability-focused investments.

Representing TEMES SA, the developers of the award-winning Costa Navarino resort, its chairman Achilles V Constantakopoulos said the target was to achieve zero footprint by 2030 but added that cooperation with bodies and associations active in sustainability was key. He went on to note that it will be easier for new projects such as the country’s largest investment Hellinikon, to have a reduced footprint  due to the integration of new green and smart technologies and infrastructure.

Moreover, during the panel discussion, Athens International Airport (AIA) CEO Yiannis Paraschis committed to achieving a zero footprint at Greece’s largest airport by 2025. He went on to add however that this will bring up travel costs. “There are no easy solutions,” he said.

‘Greener’ transport to bring Greek tourism closer to goals

Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis, Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations (HCAP) CEO Grigoris Dimitriadis, Greek Tourism Confederation President Yiannis Retsos and AEGEAN Airlines Chairman Eftichios Vassilakis.

Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis, Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations (HCAP) CEO Grigoris Dimitriadis, Greek Tourism Confederation President Yiannis Retsos and AEGEAN Airlines Chairman Eftichios Vassilakis.

Setting and meeting goals in transportation that will contribute to a reduced carbon footprint are vital for the next day, said Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis, who announced that 3.3 billion euros would be going into railway works in the coming years.

Referring to changes needed in air travel, AEGEAN Airlines Chairman Eftichios Vassilakis said transitioning to friendlier-for-the-environment technologies is harder and costlier and takes longer when it comes to airplane fleet, stressing the need for incentives.

“Aegean has invested in a new fleet that will have a 45 percent lower CO2 load per kilometer, but that is not enough to meet European Union targets. Incentives and disincentives must be given and technologies must be created,” he said.

“We are closer to Fit for 55 [climate plan] than other companies, but generally we are not very close,” he added.

Representing Greek tourism enterprises, Greek Tourism Confederation President Yiannis Retsos underlined the importance of a comprehensive tourism model of growth that will focus on the quality of services offered. This model should be implemented now, said Retsos, as Greece prepares to see improved performance and return to pre-pandemic levels. Crucial to success is close cooperation among tourism stakeholders in both public and private sectors.

Lastly, also participating in the Athens ESG & Climate Crisis panel, Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations (HCAP) CEO Grigoris Dimitriadis said the competition for the concession of the Kalamata Airport would take place in six to nine months and that a study was being carried out on how to best utilize 23 smaller airport facilities in Greece.

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SETE President Yiannis Retsos

Tourism should involve other sectors in efforts to bolster the Greek economy, said Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) President Yiannis Retsos during the annual Kyklos Ideon conference held this week.

Speaking in a panel discussion on  “Tourism and Manufacturing – Competitive or Complementary Sectors of the Greek Economy?”, Retsos said there was no need to change the country’s productive model but instead to include other sectors of the economy in the development of tourism so that the share of tourism in GDP remains high, but with a stronger GDP.

Retsos referred to the improved performance of the sector this year, which he said was unpredictable and unexpected.

“Our forecasts were much lower than the anticipated result this year. So, next year, it seems that things will be even better and we may be able to reach 2019 figures,” he said, adding that “big challenge” was to remain on top.

“In order to be able to endure as a tourist destination and to receive a lot of people over time, we must improve the quality of the product and this can be achieved by connecting tourist activity with other sectors,” he said.

“In tourism we are not happy to be participating in a shrinking GDP as was the case in 2012-2019,” said Retsos, stressing that tourism and manufacturing go hand in hand.

SETE’s chief went on to add that tourism has shown resilience despite unprecedented circumstances, referring to the potential for growth and to a better year ahead in 2022.

“If we don’t improve the products we offer tourists, we cannot remain competitive and to do this we must connect with the primary sector and production,” said Retsos, who is also CEO of Electra Hotels & Resorts.

“This is a huge challenge as it requires changing mentalities, but also a common ground of understanding on both sides,” he added.

Underlining the importance of diversification and quality, Retsos said visitors to Greece were now seeking high quality products that are not only associated with the fixed facilities of a hotel but to the aggregate of services offered.

“Tourism has now become a great experience. There is no such thing as thematic tourism. No one travels just to walk, only to see an ancient site or only to eat. It is a combination of things. You travel for the experience,” said Retsos, adding that the challenge is now to bring all these elements into a comprehensive product and promote it properly in order to attract higher income tourists.

At the same time, he added that crucial to future growth is the management of destinations that are reaching their limits with upgraded infrastructure.

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