Greek Hotel Chamber Proposes Measures for Life After Covid-19
The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels on Monday said it has proposed a series of measures aiming for the country’s accommodation units to stay afloat during the coronavirus (Covid-19) post-pandemic period.
“Nothing will be the same for Greek hotels after the (Covid-19) crisis as they will open in an environment of clear oversupply,” the chamber’s president, Alexandros Vassilikos, said during a web press conference on Monday.
As underlined by the chamber’s president, it remains unknown when the borders will open, which nationalities will travel, which airlines will fly and which flights will remain, as well which tour operators and OTAS will be active in Greece and under what conditions.
“The tourism market will open slowly and painfully and in the meantime there will be alot to be seen… Right now there is no data on which seasonal hotels will open after the pandemic as there is zero demand… There are many questions and no conclusions can be drawn about anything,” he said.
Before announcing the proposed measures, Vassilikos referred to the recent statement of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in which she advised Europeans not to book their summer holidays yet.
“It is a disappointing statement and it clearly shows one thing. That nothing is certain,¨ he said.
In its package of measures sent to the Tourism Ministry, the chamber has proposed for hotels and lodges to follow new hygiene practices once they begin operating again.
“This applies to general practices of cleanliness and disinfection as well as to new hygiene rules in common areas. The proposal, for example, includes the way breakfast and lunch are served; the distances that need to be kept in between tables in hotels and sunbeds on the beaches; and the capacity limits that must be followed in hotel areas,” Vassilikos said.
Regarding employment issues, the chamber has requested:
– for hotels (year round and seasonal) that will operate after Covid-19: subsidies for social security contributions from the date hotels open until April 2021; the flexibility to change working hours and the job descriptions of staff, depending on demand.
– for hotels (seasonal) that will not open: a 12-month unemployment benefit that will last until the beginning of the next tourist season for all the seasonal workers that will not be hired this season; and subsidies for social security contributions for permanent job positions until April 2021.
– for year round hotels that will not open: a corresponding unemployment benefit for employees that will be out of work.
Referring to tax breaks, the chamber has requested the reduction – for at least three years – of the value-added tax (VAT) on accommodation to 6 percent and on food services (restaurants, F&B) to 13 percent; the abolition of the supplementary Single Property Tax (ENFIA); and suspension of payments for updated tax debt settlements until June 2021.
On settlements for bank loans, the chamber has requested for hotels to be granted working capital loans under state guarantee and at a low interest rate. Eligible hotels must be those with performing business loans by December 31, 2019.
The chamber has also requested for the creation of a framework for the long-term repayment of existing loans – with an interest rate subsidy for 2020 at 100 percent and the possibility of extending the measure in 2021 with a 50 percent interest rate subsidy.
The chamber has also requested measures on individual issues such as a three-year extension of lease contracts of hotels ending in 2020 or 2021; further suspension of check payments; reduction of cost for the leasing of beach space; and for the Ministry of Development to accelerate protection measures for investments that are in danger of being suspended.
To see all of the chamber’s proposed measures (in Greek), press here.
Airbnbs should turn to long-term leasing this year
Moreover, the chamber has also requested for the state to grant incentives to owners of short-term rentals in order for them to choose to rent their properties for the long-term this year. The proposal has been made considering that strict hygiene rules after Covid-19 will be difficult to be applied to such accommodation.
Vassilikos said that the chamber is not requesting for airbnb-style rentals not to operate at all, but that hygiene rules must also apply to the owners of such properties and not only to hotels and resorts.
“What we are requesting is equal treatment of all suppliers that provide accommodation,” he said, adding that short-term rentals should not be treated differently.
“With a few exceptions, it is difficult to maintain strict hygiene rules for rentals in apartment buildings where tourists mix with the local population, use the same elevator or even go to the same supermarket,” he said.
Vouchers instead of refunds
When asked about the announcement of the Tourism Ministry to allow travel and tourism businesses to issue 18-month vouchers to customers that made advance payments on bookings for 2020, which were cancelled due to the coronavirus, Vassilikos said it is a measure “in the right direction”, as no one in the tourism chain – travel agents, hoteliers, airline companies – at this time can bear the cost of mass refunds.
“I think the voucher is a very good measure as it will see that consumers will not lose their money and also ensure that tourism players stay afloat,” he said.
Vassilikos added that HOTREC, the umbrella association of hotels, restaurants and cafés in Europe, is looking into the measure in order for European hotels to have a common approach on the matter.
The regulation allowing Greek hotels – as well as airlines, ferries and and travel agencies – to reimburse customers with vouchers was made official on late Monday.
The chamber’s president also mentioned that an effort is in process to boost domestic tourism this year to help support businesses (whenever the season will open) and also give Greeks the chance go on holiday in the country.
“Proposals and incentives to attract more Greeks to travel will be discussed this week, although this is not something that can overturn the situation and match the 33 million visitors we welcomed last year,” he said.
According to data, domestic tourism does not have a significant impact on the country’s GDP. Over 90 percent of Greece’s tourism income comes from incoming tourists.
During the press conference, Vassilikos presented the latest data on the impact of Covid-19 on the Greek hotel sector, which estimated a loss in turnover for Greece’s hotels this year at 4.46 billion euros and a total of 45,142 jobs in the sector to be directly at risk.
Logical measures for this stage, supportive for professionals in the segment. An overall great handling of the surrounding situation, in all aspects.