Impact of COVID-19 on Greek Tourism

Greece is a major tourist destination and attraction in Europe, making tourism a key element of the country’s economy. The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a severe impact on the industry. What are the implications? Gelina Kordoni, our 4th year student undertaking her LYCar (Launch Your Carrer) phase, is currently on placement as an Assistant Analyst with the HVS Athens Office, a hospitality consultancy. Through interviews with industry leaders and professionals, she analyses the impact COVID-19 on Greek Tourism, and provides insights for the short-term future.

Read below her analysis:

After the initial impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector, Greece is experiencing a transitional period as it is entering the next phase of the outbreak. HVS conducted targeted interviews with highly influential tourism professionals and offers further insight on the aspects affecting tourism operations in the short-term.

With governmental permission for year-round hotels to open on 1 June and seasonal hotels on 15 June, hoteliers are facing multiple challenges; are they able to bear the weight of operating in relatively low occupancies? Can they perform while taking all the necessary health and safety precautions, or would they rather remain closed for the season? As experts keep repeating, the emergence of the ‘cautious’ traveller will require the industry to develop and adapt to the new norm of safety. However, it requires a lot of time and resources for the hospitality industry to organise and implement such measures.

More specifically, hoteliers are struggling with funding their working capital as the lost business has greatly impacted their reserves. Lending a hand, the Greek government has formed a set of decisive yet effective measures that will assist hospitality businesses to stay afloat. These revolve around funding packages for distressed corporations, special loan regulations and flexibility in working hours. “In order for the state-support effort to have any success, it will need to secure and strengthen the competitiveness of Greek tourism, and all these will be great tools for it to restart,” mentions a hotelier. Although the government is on the right track with well-targeted actions, bigger corporations will most likely resort to financial institutions which plan to evaluate each individual situation according to the financial credibility of the hoteliers and avoid standardised solutions.

Employment conditions shifted

It is only natural that many hotel employees do not want to work during this summer season and are summoned to face a problematic situation. On the condition that hoteliers are able to secure their positions and finance their wages, hotel service providers need to endanger their health-safety and work under these unprecedented conditions. “Unfortunately, the majority of people working in the Greek tourism point have nowhere else to turn and, coming out of a ten-year economic breakdown, they are willing to take bigger risks when it comes to their health,” as it was explicitly mentioned.

Capitalising on new opportunities

Frankly enough, the hotel sector of Greece has been addressed to foreign tour operators for contracts ensuring mass tourism. With the vast of inbound reservations being cancelled, Greece needs to enforce alternative techniques in attracting audiences with considerations to increase market share of domestic travelers. Despite the efforts of the Tourism Ministry to encourage Greeks to travel, hoteliers claim that domestic tourism alone cannot support the large hotel-units, nor balance foreign tourism, as it is only a fraction of what Greece gets typically.

Airbnb in trouble

Entailing health and safety as their key values, today’s travellers are characterised by an increased perception of risk. As motivated as one can be to travel sooner or later, future guests will need to have some kind of guarantee that the destination visited will not provoke any health issues. This requires an 180˚ rotation in the value proposition of accommodation facilities to adhere to strict operating procedures regarding professional cleaning and disinfecting of all areas and garments. The protocols for organised accommodation facilities give an advantage to hotels by offering a sense of controlled sanitation in the properties, against individual short-term stays.

Ancillary service providers hand-in-hand with hoteliers

To protect mutual interests, tour operators have proceeded to allotments for 2021 with hoteliers aiming to facilitate the transfer of this year’s bookings to a later date in 2021, therefore avoiding cancellations and refunds. By keeping the wheel turning, both hoteliers and tour operators benefit from a sense of security against the uncertainty of 2021, ease their liquidity issues, and maintain strong bonds. Expectations for the rebound of the tourism reveal that 2021 will range at similar levels as 2018, depending of course on the progress of research on the vaccine and anti-COVID-19 medication.

Initial steps to consider and take forward

While we want to evaluate the challenges, it is equally important to spare some thinking on future recommendations that will help reboot the industry in the coming months. The need for involvement of all stakeholders is evident and Destination Management Organisations are critical in coordinating the initiatives between local organisations and the travelling public. Amongst their recommendations, tourism-crisis-management and-communication together with visitor-flow -management are the two key aspects to examine in order to realise those changes. HVS invokes authorities to recognise the need for the creation of independent and organised networks between different stakeholders, involving beneficiaries across each stage of the tourist experience (transportation, accommodation, attractions, etc.) and let such entities respond to the diverse local needs through certified power to act.

This initiative will enable the provision of more expensive and quality tourism, higher returns to hospitality businesses with increased hotel asset values and most importantly, greater resilience of our industry during such times of uncertainty.

Have a look at the full article here.