Greece’s tourism destinations are not all recording the same dynamics in bookings, according to the president of the General Panhellenic Federation of Tourism Enterprises (GEPOET), Aris Marinis. GEPOET represents travel agencies and companies that provide tour bus services.
Speaking during a recent media event, Marinis informed that a number of Greek destinations – mainly islands – may see their 2022 arrivals exceed pre-pandemic levels, but there are also areas of the mainland Greece, where demand is still down by some 30 percent compared to 2019 numbers.
“This may be attributed to the fact that many of these destinations rely on tourists from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, areas which are most affected by the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis,” he said.
Changes in spending habits
Moreover, Marinis said that foreign visitors, even on popular destinations seem to be cutting down on their spending this year, due to the wave of high costs.
Gepoet’s president underlined that the federation sees 2022 as a year of “unique challenges” for travel companies offering tour bus services.
“The optimistic start of the season earlier than ever – with results below initial forecasts at the moment – has raised the industry’s expectations for a way out of the uncertainty of the last two years,” Marinis said.
However, he stressed that following the two-year Covid-19 pandemic period, the vast majority of tour bus and travel services providers are now challenged with increased operating costs due to the high price of fuel, limited liquidity and even face difficulty to meet daily obligations.
In this context, Marinis said that GEPOET, based on the needs of its members that offer services in both popular Greek destinations and areas of the mainland with a limited tourist season, is calling on the government to proceed with six “vital” measures to support the industry.
More specifically, GEPOET is requesting for the government:
– to maintain the direct fuel subsidy (for diesel) for tour buses for as long as the inflation crisis lasts or to reimburse part of the special consumption tax by offsetting it with insurance and tax liabilities of the companies in the near future
– to write off the interests and surcharges formed in the last two years on tax and insurance debts that existed by the end of 2019 and the possibility of reaching new settlements; and for the same to apply to new financial obligations created during the Covid-19 pandemic
– to provide a subsidy for the renewal of the fleet of tour buses with state-of-the-art vehicles under the new NSRF
– to include tour buses in the public investment program of 2022 and 2023 with projects focused on fleet replacements and the creation of parking facilities for tourist buses in order to upgrade services to tourists
– to reduce the vehicle tax of tour buses by 50 percent – to the same level paid by KTEL intercity buses
– to finally liberalize the country’s long-distance road passenger routes (currently operated exclusively by KTEL bus companies) through a public tender based on the provisions of European Regulation 1370/2007 on public passenger transport services.
On the latter, Marinis commented that “the liberalization would lead to a significant upgrade of services provided, to the benefit of tourists/passengers”.
GEPOET’s president also underlined that the federation welcomes the recent talks concerning the establishment of a Travel Compensation Fund in Greece that would protect and refund consumers in case a travel provider fails to provide the agreed services and goes bankrupt.
“This was a gap that was discovered during the pandemic,” he said, adding that GEPOET will submit its proposals on the matter to ensure the smooth operation of the market under any circumstances.