Greece’s airport deal with Frankfurt-based Fraport is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the transport company’s CEO, Dr. Stefan Schulte.
“Around autumn next year it could be that we will be ready to be active on site… and to bring in all those improvements we believe in”, Mr Schulte said while speaking at the 3rd Airport Chief Executives’ Symposium (ACES – Athens) held by Athens International Airport on Thursday, November 19.
Considered one of Greece’s biggest privatizations since the start of the debt crisis, Fraport was named as the preferred bidder to lease and run 14 local airports in leading tourist destinations, including Thessaloniki, jointly with Greek energy giant Copelouzos.
According to Fraport’s CEO, the opportunities of the 1.23 billion euro deal are many since Greece is highly attractive for tourists and Thessaloniki has a strong business portion as the second important airport in Greece that over time has seen improved travel development.
“We are absolutely sure that Greece in total has a great future and we will upgrade the airports as an important part of the tourism industry”, he said.
Mr Schulte added that Fraport aims to extend the capacity of the airports in Greece “because we know from a lot of airlines with whom we have had contact in the past that they see Greece as a very important and growing market.”
In regards to the challenges Fraport will face once the deal is final, Mr Schulte mentioned Greece’s very high seasonality, poor existing infrastructure, outdated administrative systems (accounting, IT etc.) and refugee situation on islands such as Samos, Lesvos and Kos.
Another challenge Fraport sees is cooperating with the incumbent operator (Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority) which will become regulator.
Fraport will also aim for a smooth transition of all 14 airports within one airport system.
“In the end I am sure that it is a win-win situation for Greece, for the infrastructure of Greece, for the population in Greece, because we are depending very much on the tourism industry, especially on the islands. And for this you need airports to have the chance to extend the season”, he said.
The 14 regional airports Fraport will operate for 40 years, according to the deal, are those in Thessaloniki, Corfu, Chania, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Aktion, Kavala, Rhodes, Kos, Samos, Mytilini, Mykonos, Santorini and Skiathos.
Under the deal, Fraport is expected to pay some 23 million euros annually and spend more than 300 million euros as minimum guaranteed investments to upgrade the airports.
“We will do it because we believe in the long term future… Our expertise says to grow the number of passengers and to grow the number of passengers means better tourist income for the hotel industry and all the other industries on the different islands and a much better income of course for Greece in total because the tourist industry is one of the most important industries in the country”, Mr Schulte said.