By Ilias Karagiannis.
Tourism contributes the most to Greece’s economy and Gross Domestic Product. For this reason, The Greek Herald seeks to investigate, through a series of exclusive interviews, where Greece’s tourist season is heading this year and whether the long-term horizon seems ominous.
First up for this exclusive series is the President of the Association of Hellenic Tourism Industries (SETE), Giannis Retsos. He speaks seriously about how tourism will be “at the forefront of the battle for the recovery of Greece.”
“I believe that tourism, despite the severity of the crisis, will endure,” Mr. Retsos, a graduate of the Athens Law School, told The Greek Herald.
As CEO and one of the main shareholders of Electra Hotels & Resorts, which manages five hotels in Athens, Thessaloniki and Rhodes, Mr Retsos has been leading the Greek tourism business in recent years in a collective effort to improve it. The main question we asked him, as it is on the tip of everyone’s tongue recently, is whether the 2020 tourist season is lost.
“The first difficult phase of the pandemic is over. With the effective management of the health sector, but also the timely support measures, we remained protected and the country strengthened its reputation abroad,” Mr Retsos explained.
“At SETE, we all worked during this time with realistic and substantial interventions, in order to find effective solutions. We will continue to do this in the near future, with the same sense of responsibility.
“The latest government announcements have moved in the right direction to restart businesses, protect jobs and reduce data and major losses by 2020. There are still areas for significant improvements and initiatives.
“In the coming months, other interventions will certainly be needed, as well as an immediate response to all the unbalanced factors that will arise. Tourism, especially after the total opening of the borders on July 1, 2020, will once again be called to be at the forefront of the battle for the recovery of Greece. “
The tourist product and its positive promotion abroad:
The summer of 2020 will be strange for everyone in Greece. Hygiene protocols will gain the leading position from the sun and the sea. Doesn’t this mean that the tourist product should also be changed? We asked the President of SETE.
“Because there has been a lot of talk about our core product, the sun and the sea, even before the spread of the pandemic, no one is saying that this model should be abandoned but that it could take on other dimensions. In any case, tourism cannot operate with an autopilot,” Mr Retsos told The Greek Herald.
“For the next day after the crisis, the formation of directions and the implementation of actions will continue to be in demand, with the preparation of a strategic plan with a vision. At the level of our “tourism brand,” today, man remains the number one value for our country and is the comparative advantage that differentiates us from the competing destinations.”
Posts about Greece’s positive management of the pandemic are also evident on a daily basis abroad. Will this positive correlation with the ideal management of the pandemic give an advantage to Greece?
“Indeed, Greece has a lead over its competitors in the positive climate that has been cultivated abroad all the last few weeks, in relation to the management of the health issue. However, I believe that it will not be capitalised this year and I think that is not the expectation. This year will be a very difficult year. Obviously, if we recover any losses, it will be a significant development. The goal will be to capitalise this lead we have acquired for next year and in the coming years and I believe that the campaign that is planned for Greek tourism and for our country will move in this direction,” M Retsos said.
Changing the model and Australia as a target market:
For Greece, tourism is its oxygen. It contributes about 25 percent of GDP directly and this year’s season, which is full of doubts, is starting to create unspeakable fears for a bigger than expected economic recession. Many argue that Greece’s productive model needs to change and not rely so much on tourism.
“You know, when you’re in a “battle,” you don’t have the time or the opportunity to design new production models. If you will, this is a very big debate, in which I could agree on the level that a modern western economy cannot be based solely on tourism or for the most part, on tourism. But since tourism today, as you rightly said, contributes to 25 percent of the country’s GDP, we must do what we can to support it. Beyond that, without wanting to look optimistic, I believe that tourism, despite the severity of the crisis, will endure. In recent years, in the last decade, it has built solid foundations and has the infrastructure to go through the difficulties in the long run,” Mr Retsos said.
In Australia, the Greeks of the diaspora are a constant for tourism in Greece. According to the President of SETE, Giannis Retsos, in his exclusive interview with The Greek Herald last year, there were 340,000 arrivals in Greece from Australia.
“Australia is included in the list of 29 countries that Greece will open its borders to for tourists from June 15. The list was formed after a study of the epidemiological profile of the countries of origin of tourists. In Australia in particular, the development of the pandemic was extremely controlled, with a low death rate per 100,000 people. Obviously, then, as a country, it is a target market for Greek tourism, as there are also great ties with the Greek community,” the President of SETE explained.
“In 2019, we had about 340,000 arrivals from Australia, while travel receipts exceeded 370 million. Certainly, the possibilities are many through a plan that will include both the Greeks of Australia and the Australians, in order to exceed these figures in the coming years.”
But although Greece will open its borders to tourists from Australia on June 15, many Australians are still unable to leave the country. This is a dilemma which will hopefully be resolved in the near future.