The government is postponing until 2018 a new levy that was to be charged on accommodation this year, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said during the 24th annual general assembly of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) on Thursday.
Rumors that the levy (based on occupancy rates, per night stay) would be imposed on hotels of more than two stars and rooms over two keys this year had been circulating for some time and had sparked angry reactions from tourism professionals and association representatives.
SETE President Andreas Andreadis referred to the so-called “occupancy tax” as “outrageous” and “totally absurd” during his opening speech at the assembly, adding that it would be a “tombstone” for tourism businesses.
However, during his speech, the Greek PM said that the government managed to delay the extra hotel levy measure.
“Despite the insistence of lenders, we managed to put off its induction until 2018 instead of this year. And I think this is important so the tour operators can make their necessary plans without additional charges for 2016 and 2017”, Mr Tsipras said. It is noted that the levy was included in a 1.8 billion euro package of indirect taxation agreed between the government and international creditors.
More into his speech, the prime minister referred to tourism as a “source of optimism” in the difficult years of the crisis, and stressed that it will be the “spearhead” of recovery once again.
The prime minister said that for Greek tourism to develop, economic and social stability must be assured and safety must be guaranteed.
“I want to send a message within and outside the country: Greece is and will remain a stable and safe country“, he said.
According to Mr Tsipras, the completion of the first evaluation of the Greek program will pave the way to stability. “Greece is entering a new era of growth and optimism”, he added.
The PM stressed that safety is important for tourism. “The challenges we face are immense and many times can exceed us. We live in a corner of the world that is going through a very troubled time”, the prime minister said, adding that Greece has shown that it can welcome 30 million visitors, while offering shelter to thousands of refugees. “At the same time we have managed for Greece to be a pillar of stability and safety in a wider destabilized region”, he said.
When referring to the country’s tourism policy, he underlined that the government is aiming for the increase of arrivals from the Russian market. The prime minister also said that Greece was increasing its share in North America and in markets such as China and India. He added that he considers that the geopolitical developments create an opportunity for Greece to open in countries such as Egypt and Iran.
PM Tsipras also expressed his optimism about the progress of the Greek economy stressing that by the end of the year more than 10 billion euros will go to the real economy. He said that this would overturn forecasts and Greece can return to growth before the end of the year.