“Tourism is a matter of teamwork rather than individual effort. If you asked me what I thought our priorities should be in 2019, I would say synergies, partnerships and joining forces. We have been on a rising path for many years. Although Greece retains its dynamism, standards are high and there are plenty of challenges,” Mr. Yiannis Retsos, President of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), pointed out at a Press Conference today, adding that “there are several imponderables and problems which shall affect the final key figures in tourism”.
It is estimated that over 30 million tourists visited Greece this year (almost 33 million, if cruise tourism is taken into account). Direct travel revenue is estimated to have come close to EUR 16 billion.As Mr. Retsos said, “the future of tourism is not confined to the number of arrivals and the one-dimensional aspect of revenue; it really pertains to the footprint of tourism and the extent to which this would benefit a place and the community. Actions and initiatives are required which would highlight our commitment to the quality of life and the character of our country”.
SETE’s goals for 2019 remain focused on product quality upgrade, which can be attained through the interface of tourism with the agri-food sector and with cultural activities and through the constant improvement in the provision of services, a parameter which is entirely linked with people. More and better jobs, as well as coaching and training for staff and for small and medium-sized enterprise proprietors, are invariably some of our key priorities.
Moreover, SETE shall uphold its efforts for the resolution of institutional issues which persistently affect tourism businesses, such as:
i) high taxation, which has an impact on product competitiveness;
ii) the need to establish a new spatial planning framework for tourism, which would combine growth with sustainability;
iii) the short-term rental issue, which has not yet been resolved in terms of taxation and operation rules. Several countries and destinations have already regulated the market and Greece should follow their example and adopt the best practices seen abroad;
iv) the need to introduce incentives for new entrants to the labour market, with a view to reducing unemployment in Greece, and to safeguard regulated labour relations, with an emphasis on the hotel industry.
The President of SETE pointed out: “It does not suffice for visiting tourists to like a place. The people who live and work at a place should also like it. The quality of our country, of our products and of the services we provide should be in line with the quality of life that we wish to enjoy. The quality of life of the people who live at a place is directly linked to the satisfaction that tourists derive on visiting that place. An adequate level of key infrastructures –such as power and water supply and proper waste management– is crucial for some destinations, which almost reach their limits in high season. This requires a change in philosophy and the assumption of a more active role in issues which pertain to the management and good operation of destinations, as well as to the modification of promotional activities for such destinations. Promoting a destination is no longer adequate. We need to shift to a holistic approach and aim at the sustainable development and management of destinations, so as to avert any potential commercialization of the product. From the goal of attaining the tourism development of an area, we have now moved to a time when tourism can provide –and, indeed, has already begun to provide– the means to improve a location. It is at this very point that we see, more than ever, the need for synergies, partnerships and joining forces. The efforts and investments of the private sector do not suffice for the provision of high-quality services. What is essential is commitment and support from the central government and from local authorities, combined with effective dialogue with the citizens. As a matter or priority, a list of all issues should be compiled and action to resolve them should be initiated, turning to account any available funding mechanisms, with a view to contributing to the Greek tourism industry and, hence, to the country’s national economy.”
Among other things, Mr. George Vernicos, Secretary General of SETE, said: “Tourism has accomplished significant achievements in recent years. And yet the setting is full of challenges. Each and every one of us should seek to establish a good rapport with society, so that we can attain an even wider dissemination of the benefits.”