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SETE: Greek Tourism is Up Against 7 Major Challenges

Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) President Yiannis Retsos on Wednesday listed seven major challenges Greek tourism will face in the short and long term as a result of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

“We need a continuous management of everyday life, just like we did in 2020, but at the same time we need a plan that will go beyond the borders of this year’s tourism season,” Retsos said during his speech at SETE’s 29th General Assembly in Athens.

Referring to the 2021 season as “difficult and demanding”, Retsos underlined that the health crisis has redefined the entire Greek tourism product.

“New conditions require new products… We have to plan for tomorrow because nothing the next day will be the same as the day before. So the challenges we have to face, both short-term and long-term, are many. And all challenges must be taken under consideration,” he said.

The challenges

Challenge 1
The first challenge is that of protecting public health, which is connected to the strict observance of health protocols, the course of vaccinations, etc.

“Much has to be done to extend the season in autumn… We must widen the safety net that will shield the level of public health in every local community,” Retsos said while referring to the importance of vaccination against Covid-19.

Challenge 2
The second challenge is for the state to continue its support to the tourism sector. SETE is requesting a single VAT rate on tourism and transfer services, amounting to 11 percent.

“This is something that would greatly enhance the competitiveness of enterprises in order to regain a larger part of their customer base, from a shrinking, for the second consecutive year, global tourism market.”

Challenge 3
The third challenge concerns the Recovery Fund. According to Retsos, the funds that will be channeled to the Greek economy from the Recovery Fund will significantly support the country’s effort to emerge from the unprecedented crisis caused by the pandemic.

“These funds can, within a few years, change the image of the country and make it modern, competitive, with a new enriched tourism product that will meet new requirements.”

Challenge 4
The fourth challenge concerns improving Greece’s tourism infrastructure. INSETE, the research arm of SETE, has already submitted a detailed study, which includes specific proposals for investments in public infrastructure projects throughout Greece.

“The study can be a useful tool for the state to strengthen the competitiveness of the tourism sector. Public investment in infrastructure aims to strengthen connectivity, attract new visitors, improve the tourist experience at the destination, create new experiences, promote sustainable development and implement projects with a large and multiplier effect.”

Challenge 5
The fifth challenge concerns the digital transformation of Greek tourism. Highlighting that the need for digital transformation has risen sharply due to the pandemic, Retsos said that already 95 percent of tourism companies worldwide are trying to introduce new technologies to deal with the new reality, meet emerging needs and boost competitiveness.

“By utilizing new digital technologies, tourism businesses must make the leap from basic digitization to the intelligent use of data to create new products and services. This is possible through technologies that transform the tourism sector, such as artificial intelligence, biometrics, blockchain, cloud and many more.”

Challenge 6
The sixth challenge concerns the encouragement of strategic partnerships between private and public bodies.

“For SETE and Marketing Greece, cooperating with the public sector is not an opportunistic choice nor does it just concern the pandemic. It is a timeless strategic pursuit for the good of tourism.”

Challenge 7
The seventh challenge concerns the protection of the environment (green growth, climate change, sustainability).

“This is a top challenge, one that begins from individual destinations and the proper management of waste and liquid waste, extends to the energy and water adequacy, and ends with the protection of the environment as a major condition for tourism development.”

According to Retsos, the 7 challenges compose a coherent and realistic road map for Greek tourism’s present and future.

“Αll of the above can be included in a national development plan for Greek tourism. A plan that will clearly describe the next day. It will formulate policies, pave the way for development and prosperity. The challenge is great and now is the time,” he said.

SETE’s president underlined that Greece has the opportunity to enter a stable path of recovery and forever leave behind the economic crisis of the past decade and the great health crisis of the pandemic, while at the same time, overcoming many of the problems of the past.

“Tourism can and must be a protagonist in this great national effort,” Retsos said.

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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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