Greece’s Travel & Tourism sector is expected to approach full recovery this year, according to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) President & CEO Julia Simpson.
Citing data from the WTTC’s 2023 Economic Impact Research (EIR), Simpson reveals to GTP Headlines that the Greek Travel & Tourism sector is set to contribute 39.2 billion euros to the Greek economy by the end of 2023, only 4 percent behind the 2019 pre-pandemic high of 40.8 billion euros.
“Our research clearly shows the significant progress of a Travel & Tourism sector which is nearing pre-pandemic levels,” Simpson says, adding that the sector is also expected to create more than 17,000 jobs in Greece this year, reaching the 2019 peak of 820,000 employed by Travel & Tourism.
“This year the picture is even better for Greek tourism.” – Julia Simpson
According to the EIR report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics, the Greek Travel & Tourism sector has already recovered 82 percent of the jobs lost during the pandemic.
Touching on the subject of Covid, the WTTC’s chief comments that the Greek government’s “exceptional handling” of the pandemic, which included comprehensive testing protocols, successful vaccination campaigns, and high health and hygiene standards, positioned the country as a safe and trusted destination.
In this exclusive interview to GTP Headlines, Simpson also gives data on what the next ten years look like for Greece.
“The next decade holds tremendous opportunities for Greece,” she says, highlighting that the EIR report forecasts that the sector will grow its GDP contribution to over 57 billion euros by 2033, representing nearly a quarter (23.6 percent) of the Greek economy.
And while the figures are encouraging for Greek tourism, Simpson highlights the importance of investing in sustainable tourism practices.
With sustainability at the top of the WTTC’s priorities, Simpson invites Greek hoteliers to join the Hotel Sustainability Basics initiative, which helps tourist accommodation providers begin their sustainability journey.
- GTP: It’s been some three years since the Covid-19 pandemic was declared a worldwide pandemic. What lessons would you say have been learned? How stronger has Travel & Tourism emerged?
Julia Simpson: The past three years have been a tremendous learning experience for the Travel & Tourism sector. We have witnessed the importance of adaptability, resilience, and collaboration in navigating through this unprecedented crisis.
Travel & Tourism is emerging stronger than ever, demonstrating its ability to bounce back and recover.
- GTP: Travel & Tourism is still on the road to recovery from Covid but according to the WTTC’s 2023 Economic Impact Research (EIR) released recently, the sector this year is closing in on its 2019 peak and several countries have already exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Is it safe to say that the path to recovery is not so long and that we are almost there?
Julia Simpson: The path to recovery is much shorter than anticipated. The latest EIR data shows that the sector is closing in on its 2019 peak, with numerous countries recovering or surpassing pre-pandemic levels. It’s a testament to the resilience and determination of travellers, businesses, and governments.
While challenges remain, full recovery of Travel & Tourism is within our grasp.
- GTP: However, challenges are still lurking, including geopolitics, high costs and inflation. How do you see them affecting the recovery of Travel & Tourism at the moment?
Julia Simpson: Although challenges persist, they are not insurmountable obstacles on the path to recovery. The Travel & Tourism sector has proven its ability to adapt. By addressing these challenges head-on and collaborating between governments and sector stakeholders, we can mitigate their impact.
The recovery momentum is strong, and with continued determination and strategic actions, we can overcome these challenges and ensure a full bounce back.
Greece: Tourism is nearing pre-pandemic levels
- GTP: I’d like to shift the conversation to Greece. What does your 2023 Economic Impact Report (EIR) reveal about Greek tourism? If we look at last year’s data, how much would you say that Greece has progressed? Is full recovery near?
Julia Simpson: Our research clearly shows the significant progress of a Travel & Tourism sector which is nearing pre-pandemic levels. Last year, the sector’s contribution reached 38 billion euros, representing 18.5 percent of the national economy. Our sector also supported nearly 800,000 jobs across the country.
This year the picture is even better. The sector is set reach a contribution of more than 39 billion euros, just 4 percent behind the pre-pandemic high. Employment is set to reach 2019 levels, employing 820,000 across the sector.
- GTP: How did the WTTC see Greece handling the pandemic?
Julia Simpson: WTTC commends Greece for its exceptional handling of the pandemic. The Greek government, in partnership with the private sector, demonstrated remarkable leadership and implemented effective measures to ensure the safety of both travellers and the local population.
Greece’s comprehensive testing protocols, successful vaccination campaigns, and high health and hygiene standards, positioned the country as a safe and trusted destination.
- What does the next decade look like for Greek tourism? In your opinion, where should the government and the private sector shift their focus?
Julia Simpson: The next decade holds tremendous opportunities. By 2033, the national Travel & Tourism sector is forecasted to surpass 57 billion euros, nearly a quarter of the Greek economy, and support more than a million jobs.
The key focus areas for both the private and public sector should be investing in sustainable tourism practices, enhancing connectivity and infrastructure development, and embracing digital transformation and innovation.
- I should mention that I have noticed differences in the numbers when comparing the WTTC’s data for 2019 with the data released by the SETE Institute (INSETE) on the contribution of tourism to the Greek Economy. Would you like to comment on the methodology used by the WTTC to collect the data?
Julia Simpson: The difference in the estimates mostly likely originate from the difference in methodologies adopted. WTTC calculates visitor exports using data from IMF’s Balance of Payment. Within the calculation of direct Travel & Tourism contribution, WTTC considers, government expenditures linked directly to visitors but removes supply chain components. And for the total Travel & Tourism contribution, direct, indirect, and induced impacts are considered.
Progress has been made but there is still a long way to go
- Sustainable tourism in the post-pandemic era. Considering that sustainability is at the top of the travel agenda, where exactly are we now? Do we have a long way to go for tourism to emerge stronger and more sustainable following the disruptions of recent years?
Julia Simpson: Sustainability has rightfully become a top priority in the post-pandemic era. We have made significant progress, but there is still a long way to go to ensure that tourism emerges stronger and more sustainable. It requires a collective effort from all stakeholders involved.
We must prioritise responsible environmental practices, support local communities, and embrace social inclusivity.
- At ITB Berlin in March the WTTC officially launched the Hotel Sustainability Basics scheme that helps tourist accommodation providers begin their sustainability journey. How is this initiative progressing so far?
Julia Simpson: The Hotel Sustainability Basics scheme has been progressing extremely well. We have received positive feedback from numerous tourist accommodation providers who have joined the initiative to kickstart their sustainability journey.
This scheme provides practical guidance and support for hotels worldwide, regardless of their size, to adopt sustainable practices, reduce their environmental footprint, and enhance their social impact. We welcome Greek hotels to join this initiative and contribute to a more sustainable future.
- Another challenge tourism is up against is the staffing crisis. What is the WTTC’s advice on selecting and motivating talent?
Julia Simpson: The staff shortages crisis in the Travel & Tourism sector is a significant concern. With significant support from governments, businesses must focus on investing in training and upskilling programs, creating a supportive and inclusive work environment. Collaboration between the public and private sector is critical to addressing labour market challenges and aligning education with sector needs can contribute to long-term talent development.
- What is your final message to the readers of GTP Headlines around the globe?
Julia Simpson: The Travel & Tourism sector has shown incredible resilience and adaptability, even in the face of unprecedented challenges. We are on the path to recovery, and the future of tourism is bright.
Let us continue working together, prioritising sustainability, innovation, and collaboration. By doing so, we can create a stronger, more sustainable, and inclusive tourism sector. As travellers, businesses, and governments, we have the power to shape the future of travel and create memorable experiences for all.
Julia Simpson has been leading the WTTC since August 2021. Prior to her position at the WTTC she served on the boards of British Airways, Iberia and as Chief of Staff at International Airlines Group. She previously worked at senior levels in the UK Government including advisor for the UK Prime Minister.