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Greece’s City Hotels are Waiting for Business Travel to Return

Hellenic Chamber of Hotels President Alexandros Vassilikos has expressed concern for the country’s year-round city hotels which are feeling the impact of the slow recovery of corporate travel.

Speaking during a press conference on Wednesday, Vassilikos said despite the uptick in leisure travel during the summer and into the fall, Greece’s city hotels are preparing for a “heavy winter” as the various segments of business travel, mainly conferences and exhibitions, have yet to recover due to the uncertainty caused by the developments of the Covid-19 crisis.

“We have yet to see the effect of ‘revenge travel’ on hotels from the business segment as we saw from the leisure segment,” he said.

According to data presented by the Institute for Tourism Research and Forecasts (ITEP), the occupancy rate of hotels in Greece was 58.4 percent in September, following much higher percentages in July and August.

Conference market has not recovered

Photo source: WTTC

Vassilikos noted that hotel occupancy that month started at relatively high levels and eventually fell to 58 percent due to the gradual closure of the country’s seasonal hotels and because all year round hotels – in Attica for example – are still “far from their normal performance during the months of September and October” due to the lack of conferences.

The chamber’s president said that he expects, considering that the health situation is under control, for business travel to move forward at a faster pace in the spring.

“The demand is there but there is a reluctance to book conferences due to the uncertainty… We see the demand for 2022 and the years to come but this segment will fully recover only when the health situation allows it,” Vassilikos stressed.

Greek hotels June-October performance

During the press conference, the results of a survey on the performance of Greek hotels during the June-October 2021 period, were presented.

Conducted by ITEP on behalf of the hotels chamber, the survey showed that Greek hotels showed resilience and tourism numbers faired much better than expected levels.

For example, according to the survey, the average occupancy in seasonal hotels peaked at a rate of 83.7 percent during the week from 9 to 15 August. During the same period, all year round hotels saw occupancy at 70.8 percent.

However, Vassilikos warned that despite the numbers reached this summer, conclusions should not be drawn.

“We should not be misled… The numbers reached this year were achieved under very special conditions,” he said, reminding that travel restrictions to long-haul destinations kept Europeans in Europe this summer.

He added that numbers may not be comparable next year considering that long haul destinations will be open to travelers.

Photo source: Shutterstock

Photo source: Shutterstock

Moreover, the survey showed that Greece’s 4- and 5-star hotels showed the highest occupancy throughout most of the 2021 tourism season. It is noted that 76 percent of Greek hotels are in the 1- to 3-star categories.

Another highlight of the survey was the high performance recorded in the regions of Crete and the South Aegean, which saw their tourism seasons run well into October.

“This is very optimistic but we must not be fooled into believing that we have succeeded in extending the tourism season,” he said, once again reminding that the success was due to this year’s special circumstances.

Vassilikos added that Greek tourism indeed saw a tourism ‘rebound’ better than expected and which was not limited only to August.

“But we must not forget that challenges are here and we have six months of uncertainty and hard work before us,” he said, referring to the surge in the number of Covid-19 cases and the international crisis of energy costs.

The chamber’s president added that for the second year in a row, Greek hoteliers carried out the season with success under unprecedented circumstances, reacting immediately to any challenges caused by the pandemic.

“Our country’s image has been strengthened and this is reflected in the strong demand for 2022,” he said, adding that leading tour operators from abroad have highly praised Greek hoteliers for following the sector’s health protocols against Covid-19.

On a final note, Vassilikos said that support must continue for businesses still affected by the pandemic, referring to hotels based in cities and mountain destinations.

ITEP’s survey concluded that the recovery of Greek tourism was “uneven” and that the duration of this year’s tourist season in Greece was “short-lived”, leading the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels to cite a recent report of the European Travel Commission (ETC) that says a “substantial market recovery” is not expected before 2024.

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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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