The tourism industry is moderately optimistic about the upcoming season, which is expected to open in mid-May, not only because they expect an increase in arrivals from last year's levels but also because it looks like they will achieve much better prices on packages after being forced last year to accept severe reductions due to pandemic.
Although officials are reluctant to come out with forecasts for the year, there seems to be a belief that in terms of revenue, the year will be much better than in 2020.
Last year, the season collapsed from the beginning due to the strong (first) shock of Covid-19 and the panic that followed with cancellations coming like an avalanche. By the time health protocols were defined and implemented, almost half of the season had passed, while this year many systems are already installed. Perhaps most importantly, there is hope for vaccinations this year, and the pan-European digital passport is expected to open the way when implemented.
In recent statements to Business Daily, the president of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) Giannis Retsos reiterated that "the goal remains - and this is the ideal scenario for this year - 50% of its performance 2019 ΄΄.
An Athens hotel official with a leading institutional role, appears more restrained, stressing to Business Daily that "even if a 100% increase compared to last year's tourism is achieved this year, then we will reach 44% of the performance of 2019. At best - in my opinion - we will reach about 45% of the performance of 2019, while it is very difficult to reach 50% or 60% of that year."
Justifying his position, he notes that "the first 5 months seem to have been permanently lost, so a sharp improvement needs to arise from June onwards in order to be able to make a difference this season."
For his part, Yiannis Oikonomou, CEO and shareholder of Economou Hotels based in Heraklion, Crete, Vice President of the Hotel Chamber of Greece and member of SETE working groups, tells BusinessDaily.gr that "after the announcement concerning the opening of the UK market in May, there is a slight rise in bookings but not one that leads to safe conclusions. I do not see much difference at the moment in bookings - arrivals compared to last year, as much will be judged by how the vaccination process will develop in large markets for Greece, such as Germany and Britain. At the same time, we expect a lot of last minute bookings ".
He adds that this year revenues will be significantly higher than last year as "we are working with better, higher prices. Last year, due to the emergency, the wider panic and the risk of losing the year completely, we killed the prices, while this year this will not happen, as we will sell packages 20% to 30% higher. That, in turn, will bring an increase in revenue."
Economou also emphasized that "essentially the season this year will start from the end of May to the beginning of June (clearly faster than last year), while it could be extended, if all goes well until the end of October".
Yesterday, Tourism Minister, Haris Theocharis, gave official answers both for the start time of the tourist season, and for the health protocols that will be implemented.
Speaking from the digital stage of the annual ITB Berlin exhibition, he announced the gradual opening of Greek tourism from mid-April, where the borders with countries where vaccination is progressing rapidly and bilateral agreements have been concluded will be opened on a trial basis. However, from May 14, restrictions for other states will gradually begin to be lifted depending on health conditions, the minister explained.
As he said, tourists will be able to enter the country, if they are vaccinated or if they have a negative PCR which has been performed 72 hours before their departure. Those who do not belong to the above categories will of course be able to come, but will be subject to sampling checks. Compared to last year, as he stressed, this year rapid tests will be carried out to avoid quarantine periods. The cost of the sampling, like last year, will be covered by the Greek government.