Greek hoteliers reported a serious decline in revenue in the first six months of 2012. According to a study, which used data by local chambers of hotels from all over Greece, stays fell by 25% in the first quarter of the year.
The decline in winter resorts, which traditionally attract a large number of visitors, was about 20%. "April and May were the worst months as the stays dropped by an average of 35%," he said.
The largest decline was reported for the islands in the northern Aegean Sea – 50% and in the Peloponnese – 40%.
"Two problems led to these results: the bad image of the country, the political instability and the uncertainty about whether it would remain within the euro area and the complete collapse of domestic tourism. Do not forget social tourism, which is missing from the market this year for the first time and which took over half a million Greeks to various destinations," the chairman of the Chamber of Hotels said.
A decline in the flow of foreign tourists was reported for the same period, reaching 8.1% throughout the country. Interestingly, if Athens were excluded, the percentage of tourists in the rest of the country would be positive. George Tsakiris noted that May in Athens is what August is for the islands. Numbers prove it too: With a general decline of 4.8% throughout the country, the drop in Athens was 14.5% and reached 20% in May.
George Tsakiris stressed that Athens has gradually lost its value as a tourist destination due to the violent demonstrations, the decline of the city centre and the high crime rates. According to hoteliers, the largest decrease was recorded in the number of tourists from Germany, Holland and Scandinavian countries.
However, according to the e-booking agency Expedia, immediately after the elections and in particular in the days between 18 and 24 June, there was a boom in visits of users who searched for options for a holiday in Greece. On 18 June, a day after the elections, a record number of bookings was registered.
"However, this large number of visits has not yet turned into bookings, but we believe that there will be an increase during the actual summer season. Fortunately, the period of political instability did not coincide with it, but coincided with the period of pre-bookings and the beginning of summer."
Greek hoteliers believe they will fail to cover some of the losses from the extremely poor first half of 2012. However they do not think that this year will be as successful for them as 2011 was and said they expect to record 15% losses at the end of the year.
As they indicated, small hotels that had traditionally worked with Greek tourists and those that are not close to airports with charter flights and therefore, have no contracts with large foreign tour operators will incur the biggest losses.
"The Greeks have no money to go on holiday. Trips abroad, which are generally the privilege of people with higher incomes, decreased by 35%, let alone those with lower incomes," said George Tsakiris, adding that social tourism should be revived. The Chamber has even suggested a sample plan for the realization of such a programme without the participation of state structures, which were previously involved in this activity and cases of striking frauds were recorded as reported by GRRepoter several months ago.
In terms of price reductions, George Tsakiris said that this is "the only weapon in the hands of hoteliers" in practice. It is not expected to be higher than 8-9% and is based on the high taxes and the increase in the salaries of tourism employees last year.
They, in turn, are preparing to hold a 24-hour strike demanding that their wages should not be reduced by 18% and to sign a collective agreement. In addition, they are preparing to hold a 48-hour strike in July as well as other protest actions.
George Tsakiris urged them to realize that any such action sends bad signals abroad and portends negative consequences for tourism and advised them not to proceed with them.
A few days ago, members of the trade union of the Greek communists PAME blocked the entrance to a hotel on the island of Corfu and threatened some of the employees, who had disagreed with the strike. Representatives of the international hotel chain owning the hotel sent a letter to the general secretary Aleka Papariga, in which they urged her to pledge that no other similar acts would be held. It is worth noting that this was the first case in which the business turned to a political leader to suspend actions jeopardizing its operations.