The Hellenic Hoteliers Federation (known as POX in Greek) on Wednesday held its annual general assembly in Athens, where members finally had the opportunity to meet again in person after two years of mainly online meetings due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
The general assembly was attended by a number of ministers who over the last two years worked towards facilitating the recovery of the tourism sector, one of the most directly affected sectors in the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of its impact on employment and the viability of businesses.
“We hoteliers serve a national goal every season… and we will continue with all our might. We are very pleased because our contribution is recognized today with the high attendance of government representatives,” said Hellenic Hoteliers Federation President Grigoris Tasios.
Present at the general assembly were the ministers of finance, Christos Staikouras; labor, Kostis Hatzidakis; citizen protection, Panagiotis Theodorikakos; and tourism, Vassilis Kikilias. Also in attendance was the alternate minister of development and investment, Nikos Papathanasis; the deputy minister of Immigration and Asylum, Sofia Voultepsi; the governor of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue (AADE), Giorgos Pitsilis; and the governor of the Public Employment Service (DYPA), Spyros Protopsaltis.
“We are honored by this presence and it confirms our commitment to cooperation… I would like to thank you for this cooperation, given that tourism and hotels are directly or indirectly related to a wide range of government responsibilities,” Tasios said.
Important announcements for hoteliers
Addressing the audience of hoteliers, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras noted that Greek tourism will “make it” in 2022.
The minister highlighted that the Greek government will continue supporting tourism in 2022, in addition to the 3 billion euros already given over the last two years as aid to sector professionals to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Staikouras then announced a new extension until July – instead of May – for the return of the financial aid from the repayable advance payment, given to businesses in the April 2020-June 2021 period.
The finance minister added that the government was slashing the owed amount by some 6 million euros and that beneficiaries from July will be called to return 2 billion euros in 96 installments (from 90) instead of the initial figure of 8.3 billion euros.
Moreover, Staikouras confirmed that the government decided to extend to the end of the year a reduced VAT scheme that currently applies to tourism, transport and F&B services. He added that the measure is budgeted at 250 million euros.
Greek Deputy Minister of Development and Investment Nikos Papathanasis referred to the benefits that the new development law can provide to the tourism sector.
Focusing on the issue of investments in the sector, he said that from 2019 until today, 1,300 tourism projects worth over 1 billion euros have been submitted to the government.
On his part, Greek Labor Minister Kostis Hatzidakis announced that the Greek government will raise the budget for the 2022 social tourism scheme from 30 million euros to 35 million euros this year and this way cover Greek destinations that were affected by natural disasters and need special support.
The social tourism program gives low-income Greeks the chance to take subsidized holidays throughout the year. The program, at the same time, benefits tourism businesses in many areas of Greece that rely on domestic tourism to a large extent.
Referring to the government’s efforts to address staff shortages in tourism this year, the minister reminded that sector businesses have been invited to declare open positions for the June-August period until May 31 to the Public Employment Service (DYPA).
Highlighting that Greece is a safe country, Citizen Protection Minister Panagiotis Theodorikakos announced a measure to help deal with increased needs in destinations during the summer period.
According to Theodorikakos, police stations in Greek tourist destinations this summer will be reinforced by 50 percent.
As the minister announced, already 1,250 additional police officers have been assigned to the country’s entrance gates including airports, the Promachonas border crossing in Northern Greece and main island destinations such as Mykonos and Santorini to boost safety and security during the summer 2022 season.
Deputy Minister of Immigration and Asylum Sofia Voultepsi referred to developments concerning the employment of legal immigrants in Greek tourism enterprises.
As highlighted during the assembly, the Hellenic Hoteliers Federation is in constant cooperation with Voultepsi with regard to a new regulatory framework concerning the employment in hotels of citizens from third countries. The framework will also include regulations for the integration of legal immigrants, who are in Greece, in the labor market of the tourism sector.
Addressing the room full of Greek hoteliers, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias referred to the very positive messages he is receiving for Greece this year from international markets.
Touching on the subject of investments in the sector, the minister said the government embraces tourism projects as long as the country’s unique tourism product and the special experience it offers to its visitors is protected and not altered in any way.
Short-term rental issue addressed
During the general assembly, professionals once again highlighted the unfair competition Greek hotels are facing from Airbnb-type rentals in Greece due to certain “loopholes” in the current short-term rental legislation.
Responding to this, the governor of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue (AADE), George Pitsilis informed that in the context of Greece’s cooperation with the three leading short-term rental operators (Airbnb, Booking.com and VRBO), all listings of homes/apartments that do not have a property registration number (AMA) will be removed from the platforms by the end of the year.
According to Pitsilis, AADE is now also turning its attention to other platforms that rent out luxury villas for the short-term.
“We are up against new challenges,” he said, adding that AADE is working to set the boundaries between the hotel sector and the short-term rental market.
“At the same time, we are stepping up our checks because it is important to ensure healthy competition,” Pitsilis said.
Also present at the Hellenic Hoteliers Federation’s general assembly were Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) President Yiannis Retsos, Hellenic Chamber of Hotels President Alexandros Vassilikos, Greek Secretary General for Tourism Policy and Development Olympia Anastasopoulou and Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) Secretary General Dimitris Fragakis.
During the assembly, tourism professionals said they expect 2022 to be a good tourism year but also expressed concern with regard to the new challenges that have emerged including inflation, rising costs, and the war in Ukraine.