The 4+1 challenges for the coming years and the role of Turkey
Ιndustry players are concerned about the day after for Greek tourism, meaning from 2023 on, as they consider that it may be undermined by the comparison of this year with that of 2019, a year of records for Greek tourism and the last year before the onset of the pandemic. This comparison, which many resort to, may give an indication of the degree of return to normality in the tourism industry, but it can also be disorienting.
Greek tourism, as noted by the same factors, is experiencing a very good year after two problematic years due to the pandemic. But 2022 does not lend itself to strategic conclusions and celebrations as it is a special year. After all, a look at our big competitors Spain and Turkey is enough to make one realize that Greece is not ahead of others, or at least not far ahead, although compared to Turkey it probably lags behind.
Two important institutional representatives, the President of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels (HCH) Mr. Alexandros Vassilikos and the president of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) Mr. Yiannis Retsos, each in his own way, raise their concerns for the following day, avoiding a headcount of “tourists” arriving every day in Greece, which some members of the government are used to doing. On the contrary, they insist with their continuous interventions to underline the need to draw up a strategy that will capitalize on this year’s positive results but will also create conditions for sustainable solid growth in the years to come.
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The records are welcome, especially in a very difficult economic & geopolitical situation. However, the duration of success, as well as the greater diffusion of tourism income, require strategy and the formulation of policies. Today we have a unique opportunity, Mr. Retsos recently warned on Twitter.
For his part, the president of HCH, Mr. Alexandros Vasilikos, recalls the statements he at the beginning of this season, stressing that this year will be a special year that does not lend itself to definitive conclusions. Yes, we should be happy about the success that seems to be prescribed for the Greek tourism market, but we should not rest, as he stated to ot.gr, and this is because this year’s numbers will express the demand, i.e. the great need of the world for travel and not the supply, that is, what is new and different that our country offers to international visitors.
The main task according to Mr. Vasilikos for the state and the sector is to improve the characteristics of their offerings. Admittedly, very little has been done in this direction in recent years, mainly from the side of the private sector, and its investments. As an example, we should mention that Athens still does not have a large and noteworthy metropolitan conference center.
The 5 challenges
What worries the most “moderate” factors of the hotel market are some data that characterize this year and may affect 2023 and the following years negatively.
For this reason they insist on putting the issues on the table over and over again although others may want to forget them:
- The first feature is that this year people leave their homes after two years of confinement. The mood for travel was evident to all, something that will not be true with the same fervor next year
- This year there was disposable income after two years of quarantine that was spent on vacations, while next year there will be none, while at the same time there will be inflationary pressures and increased energy costs throughout northern Europe and countries that are the main suppliers of Greek tourism. An energy cost that is now beginning to be felt in these countries due to the structure of the energy market there
- Many distant destinations are still closed, as are African countries, with the result that many Europeans gather in the Mediterranean and Greece. If these destinations open next year, things will change.
- Furthermore, the uncertainty about the course of the pandemic in the coming winter and of course about the course and effects of the war is also obvious.
All of the above necessitates a substantial analysis of the situation experienced by Greek tourism and the drawing up of a strategy with an emphasis on improving the Greek tourist product being offered.
A strategy that is deemed more necessary given some of the irregularities recorded this year such as excessive charges in food service establishments and in general a wave of price gouging experienced by tourists mainly on some islands and undermines the attractiveness of the destination and limits the number of tourists who want to return.
This year it appeared that people were willing to spend, but as energy costs increased, the amounts spent decreased, and this willingness is noted by the president of the Institute of Tourism Research and Forecasts (ITEP) and president of the Hoteliers’ Union, Ms. Konstantina Svynou. This is shown, she added, by the fact that this year the average expenditure per trip is decreasing compared to last year and she expressed concerns as to what this will mean for next year.
Crete is flooded with tourists this year and will continue to do well in September and October as it did in 2019, but the president of the Heraklion Hotel Association, Mr. Nikos Chalkiadakis, does not hide his concerns about 2023, since as he says, the environment is changing due to energy costs and inflation.
Turkey is ahead
However, it should be noted that the competition also shows a picture roughly similar to Greece, when comparing 2022 with 2019.
According to the Bank of Greece, in relation to June 2019,Greece in June 2022 recorded an increase in travel receipts by 2.3%, the average expenditure per trip increased by 15.9%, while the incoming travel traffic decreased by 11.0%.
Compared to the period January-June 2019, in the period January-June 2022 travel receipts showed a decrease of 5.3% and inbound travel traffic by 15.1%, while the average expenditure per trip increased by 12.6%.
In neighboring Turkey, tourist arrivals up to June recorded a 5.71% drop compared to the same month in 2019, while in the six months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2019, the drop was 9.46%. In terms of receipts, both in June and in the first half of the year, they exceeded the levels of 2019. In the first half of 2022, they reached 11.443 billion. USD against 10.678 billion dollars in the corresponding period of 2019, while in June 2022 they exceeded 3.240 billion. USD against 2.979 billion dollars in June 2019.
The Spanish market
In the other market that competes with Greece, Spain, statistics show that in June 2022, 7.5 million tourists visited Spain and in the first half of 2022 they reached 30.2 million tourists compared to 8.8 million tourists in June 2019 and 38.2 million tourists in the first half of the same year. So in June the drop in arrivals is of the order of 14.7% compared to June 2019 while in the six months the drop is 20.9% in 2022 compared to 2019
Growth “in a vacuum”
In addition, it should be noted that Greek tourism did not grow in recent years “in a vacuum” but followed a more general trend manifested in the global tourism market. Between the years 2015 and 2019, tourism worldwide recorded a 27% increase in tourist arrivals from 1.18 billion. tourist arrivals at 1.5 billion while in the same period, tourist arrivals in Greece increased from 23.599 million in 2015 to 31.348 million in 2019, marking an increase of approximately 33%.
Based on all of the above, there is no room for celebration, as if , somehow, we did something different that is now paying off. What is required is hard work and strategic planning with the aim of quality tourism, as Mr. Retsos notes, to improve the product being offered, as Mr. Vassilikos underlines.
All this without referring to the financial results of the hotel units, many of which will close the year with large losses due to energy costs, while of course the problem of staff shortage is still a thorn.