Fraport Greece has completed renovation and upgrade works at 11 out of the 14 Greek regional airports it manages and operates, according to the company’s executive director for commercial and business development, George Vilos.
Works have been completed at the airports of Aktio, Chania, Corfu, Kavala, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Mytilini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Samos and Skiathos.
Speaking during the Thessaloniki Helexpo Forum on Monday, Vilos said works are still in process at the airports of Kos, which will be completed in October; Thessaloniki, which will be completed by the end of the year; and Santorini, which are expected to finish within the first two months of 2021.
“After that our entire investment program of 440 million euros will be complete,” he said, highlighting that despite the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the company not once considered postponing, suspending or slowing down the investments at the 14 airports.
“But beyond the implementation of the investment, which will be delivered on schedule, we have to look towards the day after,” he stressed.
Referring to the air travel situation due to the pandemic, Vilos said that from the end of March and onward, passenger traffic at the airports Fraport Greece manages fell between 90-95 percent.
“It is a difficult year. Passenger traffic dropped at the 14 airports by 75 percent to 5.5 million passengers in the first eight months of the year,” he said, adding that during the same period in 2019, the airports had welcomed 21-22 million passengers.
2021 will not be easy, Intense competition expected
According to Vilos, “the day after” will not be easy, even if the epidemiological situation in Greece is the desired one.
“We believe that Greece’s tourism product will see intense competition from other countries,” he said, adding that Fraport Greece is currently in very advanced discussions with the Tourism Ministry, Greek regions, city tourism organizations and hotel associations, in order to develop a strategy for the day after and attract airlines, develop new routes and bring back lost routes.
Vilos said that this year, given the proportions, Greece did well for two reasons:
– the crisis was managed exceptionally from a health point of view, which meant that foreigners saw Greece as a safe destination, and
– there were problems in other competitor destinations. For example, holidaymakers did not have the choice of Spain.
“Some travelers did not have the alternatives they would have under normal circumstances and so they came to Greece. But at some point that will change. Foreigners will be able to go to Spain and other destinations, so we have to work on time to make our tourism product more competitive for the day after,” he said.
Referring to Thessaloniki in particular, Vilos said Fraport Greece sees the city, including the wider area, as a destination with special prospects.
In 2019, international passengers at Thessaloniki’s airport saw a 8.6 percent increase, attracting 4.7-4.8 million over 4.1 million in 2018.
Also, during the first two months of 2020, the airport had a double-digit increase in the percentage of tourists from abroad, by 14 percent.
“This means that even in the winter months, Thessaloniki is growing and it is in demand from abroad. It is not just a summer or seasonal destination,” he said.
Vilos added that Fraport Greece has received positive feedback from airlines regarding possible development of routes to Thessaloniki next year, always depending on how Greece will progress epidemiologically.