The first signs for the 2018 tourism season in Greece are looking positive, the president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Yiannis Retsos, said on Wednesday.
Speaking during SETE’s annual Christmas press gathering, Retsos said that initial data was showing an increase of four percent in the number of airline seats on offer for 2018 compared to the 2016 forecast for the 2017 season.
“This alone shows that the momentum for Greece is continuing,” he said.
For 2017, he said that tourism revenue is expected to reach 14.5 billion euros.
“Generally speaking, it has been a successful year with an increase in overnight stays, arrivals and revenue,” he said.
Lack of spatial planning holds back tourism investments
When referring to issues that were hampering the development of tourism in Greece, Retsos noted the lack of a spatial planning framework to regulate tourism construction.
According to SETE’s president, the lack of spatial planning and the obstacles that gradually arise over time for investments in process are considered to be the two main hurdles for foreign investors in Greece.
“We are trying to plan out Greek tourism for the next 10 years… Upcoming investments that will determine the future of Greek tourism, as well as the efforts of Greek entrepreneurs to expand, must be based on a clear spatial planning strategy,” he said.
“The last I heard is that the national spatial planning framework will be delayed for about two years… This is not good news,” Retsos stressed.
New ‘stayover tax’ to burden hotels
SETE’s president also expressed his concern on the country’s competitiveness and underlined that the current taxation rates of tourism enterprises, combined with the new “stayover tax” that will come into effect in 2018, will especially burden small and medium-sized businesses that are trying to survive the crisis.
“We have an overtaxed tourism product and package and a 7-8 percent higher VAT rate than all our competitors,” he said.
Retsos estimated that the burden of the new tax would amount to some six percent, which will be added to the yearly tax obligations of entrepreneurs. He added that the imposition of the new tax will not help state revenues but on the contrary stand as the reason for tax dodging.
“The state will lose revenue from VAT that will not be paid by businesses who will try to avoid paying the stayover tax,” he said, adding that constantly burdening tourism with new taxes sooner or later will create “a very big problem”.
Referring to the government’s attempt to regulate short-term rentals of apartments and holiday homes, Retsos appeared skeptical on how exactly the data of accommodation owners will be crosschecked by the authorities.
“On the one hand, we have a very weak regulation, and on the other we do not have a solid way to monitor the platforms, and we do not have strong audit services to be able to control this activity,” he said.
When referring to issues that will negatively affect tourism developments next year, Retsos spoke of the geopolitical developments and the instability in the Mediterranean region. He also mentioned the fear of Europeans to travel after the latest terrorist events.