The outlook for this year’s tourist season, which officially begins on May 15th, is very negative, despite government and tourism minister Haris Theocharis insisting that there is a plan for a successful recovery of tourism in Greece.
We will remind, in government circles and the minister himself stated that they expect the arrival of at least 15 million tourists this season. But all this seems unrealistic when you hear the professionals in the tourist areas of the country describe the reality.
We can already say that this year may be even worse than last. In key tourist areas such as the Cyclades and Rhodes, as well as special tourist centers with their own autonomous tourist courses, such as Mykonos and Santorini, no reservations were made until May 12, 2021, and the few that did occur were canceled …
To tell the truth, May is already lost, June seems to be lost too. There are still small hopes that there will be a tourist wave in July and August, but none of the professionals in this field are betting on this.
In Rhodes, until May 11, it was hoped that some of the tourist income would come from the Israelis. But because of the outbreak of war with the Palestinians, this hope is melting like last year’s snow. In addition, it is already clear that British tourists will not go en masse to Greece, since the UK government does not include Greece in the European tourist zones free of covid. But most worrisome is that Greek tourism brands like Mykonos and Santorini are not in noticeable demand this year.
Not only are there no bookings, but there is no hope of tourists coming to these two islands in the near future, as evidenced by the data announced by the airlines. Characteristically, experienced professionals in Santorini and Mykonos tell reporters that they will not open some of their businesses, while other activities will operate with limited staff.
The manager of a hotel in Mykonos told the Greek newspaper zougla.gr that of the 100 bookings, 94 were canceled while they were losing British and Israeli tourists.
Obviously, professional hoteliers, traders, suppliers, catering entrepreneurs are hesitant to start their own business, as the prospects do not show that they will be able to recoup their expenses. Therefore, they prefer to keep them closed and not take risks.
So, each of us asks where all this wave of excessive optimism, cultivated by the government and the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Theocharis, comes from, since both the members of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Tourism itself know perfectly well what is really happening in the country’s tourism market.
Dimitris Theodoras, general manager of Kamari Tour on the island, in an interview with zougla.gr said that at the moment no place in the company’s hotels has been booked, and Santorini, which is one of the most popular destinations, is in a worse position than Last year.
According to him, “the hotels that will open will be with 3-5% occupancy, and this is at best. On some days, the occupancy rate will be zero. Since last year, when we were in quarantine with all these problems, no reservations have been made. “Everything will be done at the last moment.”
Mr Theodoras says the Germans started reservations on May 14 and have received applications from just 60 customers to date. The Netherlands is expected to issue a statement on Wednesday. In contrast, reports from England are not good, as Greece is in the orange zone and requires a minimum of two tests and quarantine at home upon return. “Half of UK flights, let alone 70%, and major tour operators have canceled their plans and will resume by June 26th.”
Mr. Theodoras also believes that tourists from China and India will not be coming to Santorini this year, which is one of the reasons why about 20% of the staff will go to work. As for the Greeks as tourists, they, notes Mr. Theodorou, “unfortunately, in recent years, they practically do not come to us.”
Businessman Hierotheos Mitropias from Santorini has a café-bar that will not work at all this year and a tourist shop that will open with 2 sellers instead of 4. He told zougla.gr about the situation on the island due to the tourist season. “What I see on the island in recent days is a very large shortage of tourists, many people leave in search of work. I won’t open a cafe at all because I need six employees and I don’t know if the seasonal income will cover the operating expenses. However, I will be running a travel store, working on my own and with family members, and I will only employ two out of four people who have worked for me in other years. ”
Tourism in Rhodes starts the summer season with very few reservations. Most hoteliers are currently avoiding opening. Manolis Markopoulos, president of the Rhodes Hoteliers’ Association, told zougla.gr that 15 of the island’s 650 hotels will open on 15 May.
The first arrivals were expected from Israel, where a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, but today everything has suddenly changed: massive cancellations were triggered by dramatic events unfolding in the country.
Mr. Markopoulos notes that, like last year, tourism will work this season. For now, he’s been working on a last-minute booking.
The tourist season in Naxos starts very slowly, and only 30% of the hotels are expected to open in the coming days. Manolis Bardanis, the island’s president of hoteliers, told zougla.gr that the first 30 days of opening are transitional and he takes it for granted that they will be sluggish and with very little tourists. He also notes that most of the hotels will open by the end of June and hopes the bottom line will be better than last year. According to him, vaccinations will play a very important role this year.
Paros hoteliers are also on hold, relying on minimal traffic during this first phase of the tourist season, but hoping that the situation will improve during the height of summer. President of the Mania Abatsi Island Hoteliers Association tells zougla.gr that June is expected to be sluggish as each country’s policy is not yet fully clear and vaccination of large populations will not be completed. On the island, however, a fairly large number of hotels open, since there are not many of them on the island. She is more optimistic about July and August, but this optimism comes with caution as, as she explains, all reservations have a one-day cancellation policy.
Why are we losing British tourists?
The hasty departure of Haris Theocharis to London a few days ago and his contacts there did not seem to have been enough to reverse the negative scenario set by the British government with its decision on relatively covid-free zones in Europe.
Thus, Spain and Greece did not get into the jet due to the fact that they are in the restricted orange zone. This means that every Briton who has visited either of these two countries must be quarantined upon returning to the UK.
This decision was a verdict for these countries, but an unexpected gift for Portugal, promising significant benefits. Airlines are currently trying to provide more charter flights, mainly to the south, to meet the growing demand for flights to Portugal from British citizens.
Thus, the “fratricidal” tourism war is now escalating between Spain, Italy, Egypt, France and Greece, pending decisions by important tourism markets such as the Netherlands and the Nordic countries.
These decisions will determine whether citizens of specific countries should be quarantined upon return. Another headache for Haris Theocharis!