Greek tourism once again enters a crisis period, as a series of negative factors form a new, difficult situation and lead to deep concern, said the chairman of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, Gerasimos Fokas, at a press conference held recently.
Mr. Fokas underlined the danger tourism is up against and warned government and tourism related organizations that today’s situation may possibly lead the industry towards an irreversible negative trend on the map of international competition.
Mr. Fokas expressed his disappointment towards the government as he made special reference to the common real estate tax (ETAK) imposed on the hotel industry. He stressed that the government proceeded with this tax measure while totally ignoring the consequences it will have on terms of competitiveness as well as on the survival of small businesses. Mr. Fokas announced that the chamber would try to settle the matter in court for the abolition of this “unjust and unfair fee.”
The chamber’s chairman also made reference to the two percent “sojourn tax” (on overnights) the hoteliers are obliged to pay municipalities from their gross revenues, which corresponds to 20 percent of profits for hotels. Hoteliers want the sojourn tax cut to one percent and to be paid by all businesses and not just by hotels and restaurants.
Regarding the sojourn tax, a recent meeting took place between Finance Minister Yiorgos Alogoskoufis and Tourism Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos. Their conclusions, however, were rejected by Nikitas Kaklamanis, chairman of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE).
“The meeting between the two ministers has no basis as KEDKE is the ‘real hotelier’ on this issue.” Mr. Kaklamanis stressed that the state must first give KEDKE what they promised, such as 250 million euros by the end of August, and not play political games at the expense of local authorities.
At the press conference, Mr. Fokas also stressed the need for the Greek National Tourism Organization to implement a crisis management plan and also referred to the organization’s offices abroad. “These offices should play a key role in the field of tourism marketing and information, but instead they are still pending upgrade in terms of operation, infrastructure and staffing,” Mr. Fokas said. He added, “Sometimes the level of service is shameful.”
As far as Greece’s current tourism situation is concerned, the president mentioned the figures from the Civil Aviation Authority, which refer to the air arrivals for the first five months of the year (January-May 2008).
Total arrivals for the first five-month period increased by 2.8 percent, over the same period last year. However, last years increase was 7.1 percent compared with the same period in 2006.
The chamber stressed that the world economic picture (oil crisis, international economic crisis, euro-dollar rate) unfortunately does not help Greece overcome tourism problems and have a positive year.