By Nikos Krinis
Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis on Thursday informed an audience of tourism professionals that Greece’s new omnibus bill will help pave the way for investment in the sector.
The omnibus bill, required by Greece’s lenders to conclude a bailout review and release more aid to the country, was approved by Greek lawmakers late on Thursday.
The main speaker during the 25th annual general assembly of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Dragasakis said that for the first time, since the start of the crisis, the conditions have been created to remove the obstacles that for years have stood in the way of investments or had made their planning impossible.
“Both investment and the development of tourism, in general, decisively depend on the general conditions,” he said.
According to Dragasakis, the bill has two very “powerful” features. “Firstly, it incorporates the principle of fiscal neutrality and the logic of balancing social consequences through countermeasures… Secondly, it may conditionally unlock procedures for the termination of memorandums,” he said.
Regarding overtaxation in the sector, he underlined that increasing tax rates is not a choice of the government. “However, we need to realize that there is no heavily indebted country – one that is on the verge of bankruptcy – that has low taxation,” Dragasakis said.
He also noted that the only way for the government to make tax cuts is to curb tax evasion, reduce primary surpluses and increase GDP.
“The government is working towards this direction and I must say that with the expansion of electronic transactions, there are already significant improvements in the collection of value-added tax (YAT),” Dragasakis said.
The Deputy PM also referred to the lack of a national zoning plan for the sector – which stands as a major obstacle for major tourism investments to get off the ground – and said that an announcement for the creation of a new land use plan is expected to be made in the coming weeks.
Moreover, Dragasakis said that he expects 2017 to be a good year for Greek tourism and added that the government’s strategic objective is to create conditions for sustainable and balanced tourism development, while respecting the environment, cultural heritage and local communities.
Kountoura: 2017 will the best year in the history of Greek tourism
“For the third consecutive year, the impressive upward trend confirms that the national tourism policy we designed in 2015 and implementing over a four-year period, with a specific plan and very clear strategic objectives, has already payed off,” Minister Kountoura said.
The minister informed the audience of tourism professionals that Greece’s 2017 tourism season has begun with a 70 percent increase in early bookings and repeated that the ministry’s main goal is for the country to become a 365-day a year tourism destination.
SETE’s general assembly held special significance for the tourism industry this year as Yiannis Retsos took over the confederation’s presidency from Andreas Andreadis, who had been president for the last six years.