Revenues from Greek tourism this season may reach or even exceed 2019 levels although 2022 is a “difficult, complicated and unpredictable” year, the president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Yiannis Retsos, said on Wednesday.
Speaking during the 30th General Assembly of SETE in Athens, Retsos said Greece and the whole world are once again facing developments that may cause disruption in the course of events.
“Due to these developments, regularity as we know it has become an exception to multiple crises: health, as we still have the pandemic; geopolitical, such as the war in Ukraine, after Russia’s illegal invasion of an independent country; and financial, such as the crisis we are experiencing today, with the rapid rise in inflation and the high costs that affect households and businesses,” he said.
As he pointed out, Greek tourism once again is called to adapt and rise to the occasion in the midst of a complex and burdened environment.
“Greek tourism is called to operate again this year under difficult conditions, to face another crisis period, but for the umpteenth time in the last decade,” Retsos stressed, adding that once again the sector is called upon to support the country’s recovery effort.
“Let’s not forget that Greek tourism, in the great economic crisis of 2010, but also during the years of the pandemic, supported incomes and created many jobs… And this is exactly what the sector did last year,” SETE’s president said, emphasizing that Greek tourism managed to stay afloat in 2021 beyond predictions and in an environment of unprecedented difficulties.
Greece’s incoming tourist arrivals last year reached 14.7 million and travel receipts amounted to 10.7 billion euros, with a 27 percent increase in the average per capita expenditure compared to 2019.
“Brand ‘Greece’ persisted, was strengthened and contributed to the maximum so that Greek tourism would remain strong, competitive and this year, in 2022, to reach and maybe even exceed the revenues of 2019,” Retsos said.
According to recent data, travel intentions for Greece are solid this year despite the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Tourism shouldn’t be taken for granted
During his speech, SETE’s president highlighted that Greek tourism can not always be considered as a “given source of income” for the country during extreme situations.
“It can not always be taken for granted because tourism is a dynamic and complex process, which requires constant adaptation. It requires planning, support and strategy in both difficult and good times,” Retsos said, adding that no one should rest on their laurels.
“Today, as things seem to be going much better, we need to be even more careful. No one should be at ease due to ‘record numbers’,” he stressed.
Zero tolerance for poor working conditions
More into his speech, SETE’s president addressed the issue of staff shortages in tourism as well as reports regarding poor working conditions and low wages.
He said that legislation must be followed by all and that SETE has a zero tolerance approach to poor working conditions.
“This is the only way to protect our product as offering quality tourism with workers in shady conditions, can not exist. And for this very reason, the state needs to make constant strict checks in order to identify offenders… All professionals must strictly observe the laws without exceptions,” he said.
Retsos underlined that SETE is ready to start a dialogue with all stakeholders, social partners and the state on the matter. He noted that among other things, ways to subsidize work positions should be found and winter employment policies (due to the sector’s seasonality) must also be discussed.
PM: Tourism must be ‘attractive’ to its employees
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also focused on the lack of staff in the tourism sector which, as he said, is “becoming threatening”.
Speaking via video message during SETE’s general assembly, the Greek PM said new approaches to the matter are required.
“These include extending the tourism season and also by connecting tourism with other activities from autumn onwards,” he said.
“But it also requires investment in the human factor. Because tourism must be attractive not only to visitors but also to those who work in the sector,” Mitsotakis said, adding that better salaries and working conditions are essential.
“Only a happy employee is a productive employee for both himself and for the enterprise he works for,” he added.
Referring to this year’s season, the prime minister said that signs were “extremely encouraging”.
However, he noted that tourism is once again facing new challenges as the Russian invasion in the Ukraine is disrupting international travel, causing an energy crisis and a soaring in prices.
“This means that the cost of services is increasing and the purchasing power of millions of people is being reduced, while at the same time the climate crisis and the development of technology are now rapidly changing the consumption habits of visitors,” he added.