Greece will invest half a billion euros on tourism infrastructure per year for the next six years, according to an announcement made by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on 30 April during the 22nd annual general assembly of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) in Athens.
The funds for tourism investment will come from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), while the private sector is expected to invest three billion euros.
The Greek PM said that this year Greek tourism is expected to break the record of 2013, as more than 20 million tourists are expected to visit the country.
Mr. Samaras underlined the need of quality improvement in tourism by extending the duration of the season and attracting tourists of higher income from markets such as Russia and China.
“Tourism constitutes 15 percent of the Greek economy, of which seven percent was its direct and eight percent its indirect contribution to GDP,” he said.
He added that the positive impact of the country’s tourism strategy could increase annual demand by 10 billion euros over the next five years and 25 billion euros over the next 10 years and create 220,000 jobs.
Tax reduction key to tourism development
“The biggest challenge is reducing taxes,” Mr. Samaras said. He characterized the current level of taxation on tourism “unacceptably high” when compared with competing countries and assured that changes would take place gradually without creating risk to fiscal surpluses.
“The VAT on food services has already been reduced from 23 to 13 percent, which was not easy, but tax reduction will continue,” he said.
Government plans for Greek tourism
Besides reducing taxes in the tourism sector, the Greek PM referred to other measures planned by the government to boost tourism in the country. These measures include a zoning plan for Greek forests and shores, license and privatization facilitation for marinas and improving the access to Greek destinations from within the country and from abroad.
He also announced plans to upgrade the city center and the seafront of other Greek cities, starting from Athens.
“We are promoting 13 actions that include a change in the direction of commercial strategy, the development of quality infrastructure and increase in investment, strengthening the cruise and marina sectors, facilitating the issuance of visas and reducing airport charges,” he said.
“Tourism is the country’s heavy industry. It is our duty to promote and utilize the beauty of Greece, which is its comparative advantage,” he concluded.