The year 2023 is on track to be better than 2022 for tourism, the president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) Yiannis Retsos said in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA). He noted that this increase in the country’s tourism figures looked set to continue in the years to come, based on international trends.
According to Retsos, there was optimism that revenues from tourism could reach 18.2 billion euros in 2023, exceeding the record revenues in 2019, something that would start to become apparent over the course of the year.
“Greece is capitalising on the very strong brand it has built during the pandemic,” Retsos said, noting that it was the only Mediterranean country that opened its borders with complete success in 2020, showing that it could handle a serious crisis and becoming an example for other destinations to follow. The reputation for safety that Greece built at that time still follows the tourism sector at present, he said.
A key decision taken at that time, he noted, was the decision to open the borders to Americans, making Athens Airport a hub for all of Europe. This led to a vote of confidence from Americans, who “have returned to Greece and will not leave for a long time,” Retsos told ANA.
Asked how Greece can retain its current position as the fifth most recognisable tourism brand worldwide, Retsos noted that tourism activity was cyclical and this must be done with good strategy and organisation, now that Greece was going through its peak phase. He said this would need improvements to infrastructure and waste management, with a number of issues that needed “immediate answers” on specific fronts.
He also highlighted the importance of up-to-date promotional tools in order to stay ahead of the competition, where he praised the contribution of SETE’s promotional company, Marketing Greece.
On the employment problem that has arisen for the tourist industry, with tourist enterprises struggling to find staff, Retsos said this was a huge problem for tourism and other sectors of the economy, and that the shortage of trained staff could have a serious impact on tourism, which was a service industry. He blamed the phenomenon partly on the pandemic lockdown, which pushed workers into other areas of the economy, and also on an economic shift that occurred from 2020 onwards, when previously stagnant sectors of the economy recovered and attracted staff from the largely seasonal tourism sector. Other factors, such as poor working conditions, served to worsen the problem, he added, urging inspections sooner to help address the problem.
Regarding pay, he pointed out that minimum pay in tourism was higher than the general minimum wage, while he said it was important to intensify efforts to provide young workers with training in tourism-related skills and also called for tourism to be permitted to import staff, as in agriculture.