Growth can only come from the private sector and society, which will eventually convince the state and individual governments to do the same, Yiannis Retsos, newly elected president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), told Kathimerini daily in an interview this week.
Speaking from his own hotel in Plaka, the Electra Palace, Retsos said he was optimistic about the season ahead with SETE expecting tourism revenue to come to 14.5 billion euros or up by 9 percent compared to last year, and visitors to reach some 27 million against 25 million in 2016.
“Naturally, the wider geopolitical conditions and circumstances, but especially investments in the private sector and the fact that we have worked together as a sector with governments and ministries and have set common goals that we are still pursuing (have contributed to these figures),” said Retsos.
SETE’s chief notes that there’s a lot going on in tourism particularly with regard to innovation and new entrepreneurial spirit thanks to a younger generation which has adapted to the conditions and is working through start-ups.
“There is space even for young or ‘small’ entrepreneurs as long as they are able to react quickly to the new market conditions,” he said.
Retsos stressed that the main problems facing the sector are over-taxation, a lagging competitive environment and the lack of a flexible framework which will allow tourism professionals to pay off loans.
“We cannot always be expected to carry on new burdens that we have not anticipated and figured in,” he said of the ever-changing demands made by the government including the latest decision to implement a new over-night tax.
“We are already negotiating contracts for 2018 and we don’t know what will pass on to the customer. We requested of the government to apply this tax in July and August. If it applies all year round the cost will have to be passed on to the customer. Our product is already expensive compared to the competition, our clients will be dissatisfied, we may have losses.”
With regard to terrorism, Retsos said it is already evident in the trends.
“Habits have already begun to change. Tourists stay longer inside hotels, they do not move much, they avoid meeting places (bars, restaurants, etc).”
Meanwhile, in relevant news, stock market interest in Greece’s hotel sector was the highest during the first half of 2017 marked by the sale of the Astir Palace and the Athens Hilton. Market insiders are saying the resilience of the hotel sector will pave the way for increased investor interest in the coming years.