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Greece Needs to See the ‘Bigger Picture’ for Tourism, SETE Chief Says

Photo source: Marketing Greece

Photo source: Marketing Greece

While Greece is getting ready for the start of the 2019 tourism season, the president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Yiannis Retsos, on Wednesday underlined the importance of destination management in order for the sector to maintain its steady course and lead to more success in the future.

“Greece must now enter a ‘tourism maturity’ phase,” Retsos told journalists during a press briefing, explaining that the country has reached the point that it must now “get away” from obsessing over quantitative data (arrival numbers mainly) and look at the “bigger picture”.

Greece’s tourism sector is one of the main drivers of the country’s economy. Last year Greece hit an all time record as it welcomed 33 million tourists that generated some 16.5 billion euros in revenue.

SETE President Yiannis Retsos.

SETE President Yiannis Retsos.

“In view of the new tourism season, during which we once again are expected to welcome a very large number of tourists, and following six years of repeated success, we must remember that the travel experience is not only about accommodation but overall, it concerns the destination itself,” SETE’s president said, underlining that the smooth functioning of Greece’s destinations is essential for tourists to have a smooth stay, leave satisfied and return in the future.

Retsos went on to underline that improving infrastructure is crucial for the future of Greek tourism in general.

In regards to the 2019 season, SETE’s president said that he sees 2019 as a year of stabilization for the country’s tourism sector, following six years of growth.

‘Three key words: success, challenges and problems’

“From now, we at SETE have three key words in mind: success, challenges and problems,” he said, only to add: “In recent years, we have achieved much success as a result of our hard work… But there are many great challenges with the biggest one being how we can remain on the level we are on today, before we start even thinking about attracting 40 or 50 million visitors per year, as we can not handle such a rise. If we really mature as a market, look at tourism strategically, all work together and create the proper infrastructure, in 10 years from today we can talk about attracting 40 to 50 million tourists, because then we will be able to welcome this rise properly. So, the big challenge is how to establish the ideal infrastructure and accomplish synergies in that direction.”

Referring to the “problems” in tourism, Retsos referred to both the lack of infrastructure and the high tax rates (including the stayover tax) charged on the tourism sector that hurts the country’s competitiveness.

Retsos underlined that for destinations to function smoothly in general and to be able to welcome more visitors, investments must be made over the next years in all Greek tourist destinations for energy efficiency, sufficiency in water and waste management. SETE’s president said that Greece’s road networks (especially on island destinations) and border entry points must be upgraded, while port infrastructure must also be modernized. He also added that adequate policing in destinations, especially during the tourism season, and improving the country’s health services are essential for tourism and satisfied visitors.

Concluding, Retsos said that despite the challenges and problems, he is optimistic for the future of Greek tourism.

“I have much faith in tourism. I believe we have reached a very high level and it is up to us not to not spoil it,” he said.

About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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