Greek hoteliers say they are ready, eager and willing to welcome back their guests as the country finally begins to relax its strict coronavirus lockdown measures.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced earlier in the week that all-season hotels would open on June 1, whereas the nation’s seasonal hotels, which are much more numerous, will begin operating sometime in July, when the tourist season is expected to start this year.
“We are all set to go,” says Sofia Matzourani of the Aqua Vista chain of hotels in the Greek Cyclades. Speaking to Greek Reporter, she says that the distinction between all-year-round and seasonal hotels makes little sense, as in many ways seasonal hotels can offer even more protection from a possible resurgence of the virus.
“In our seasonal hotels in Santorini and elsewhere there is — by definition — social distancing. Apartments are autonomous, our clients are mainly couples and the services we offer are very personal.” For example, she says, “breakfast is offered in the room, and therefore congestion is avoided.”
Aqua Vista boasts a luxurious lineup of hotels in the sun-soaked locations of Santorini, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos, where the tiniest details count, including “your-home-but-better” suites and villas which offer private pools.
Matzourani says that the luxury chain has always upheld the best standards in terms of hygiene as part of their normal routine, and she feels certain that the health requirements mandated by the authorities will be easily met.
The only real question is whether the tourists will arrive this year.
“It is not simply a question of whether flights will restart, but also of whether tourists will have the necessary disposable income to come over. The crisis has hit people throughout our markets. We should not forget that travel is a luxury. People must be able to meet all their basic needs before they embark on travel and holidays,” Matzourani notes.
The season up to now has been the worst of the last decade, she points out, but she takes heart from a steady inflow of bookings for this late summer onward. Aqua Vista has also opened up its online bookings for the 2021 season “which are going surprisingly well,” she states.
Greek tourists are not enough
Some hoteliers, however, express doubts about whether opening on June 1 is feasible. Platon Lemonopoulos, of Litohoro Olympus Resort Villas & Spa, tells Greek Reporter that the Greek premier’s announcement is “optimistic.”
He explains that the problem is rooted in the fact that all the nations comprising Greece’s target tourist markets remain shuttered. “Hotels cannot operate only with Greek guests. Greeks make up about 10 percent of the guests, and for a hotel to be breaking even there should at least be 40 percent occupancy rate.”
He says that it is inevitable that some smaller hotels will not reopen at all this year, since “s hotelier will think twice about opening if there is only 20 percent occupancy.”
He says that a July opening is possible, if the Greek authorities decide as soon as possible on the exact health measures required and draft the health protocols needed.
“At this stage there is uncertainty on what these measures would entail, as we need to make sure that our guests do not bring Covid-19 to our premises,” Lemonopoulos states.
Litohoro Olympus Resort Villas & Spa, located in Plaka, 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away from the well-known destination of historic Litohoro, is proud of its facilities and location. It has an unrivaled view of the sea with Olympus, the Mountain of the Gods, rising up in the background.
Lemonopoulos says that bookings for this summer have dropped by 50 percent, although he points out that “there is movement for the months of August and September. We even had some new bookings.”
The hotelier admits, however, that this summer will be a difficult period for everyone, including the staff, who are anxiously awaiting news of the hotel’s reopening.
“Our industry and the whole world is on a war footing against the coronavirus. We need to win the battle, and I hope that tourists would appreciate that Greece has been — up until now — successful in fighting the virus. This gives us hope that when the crisis ends, visitors will start flooding in again,” he says.
Traveling is a way of life
Capsis Hotel, the largest hotel in Thessaloniki and in all of northern Greece, is all set and ready to welcome visitors right now. Bookings are doing well, says manager Anatoli Kapnidou.
She tells Greek Reporter that the hotel has been implementing the absolute highest health standards. “We are now putting the final touches on an action plan to ensure that hygiene conditions are more than perfect. We have been using the standards applied by internationally renowned hotels,” she explains.
Kapnidou has worked at the luxurious Capsis Hotel for twenty years. “It is so ironic that my 20th work anniversary finds the hotel shut… I could have never imagined this,” she muses sadly.
The hotel’s 407 rooms and eighteen conference multi-use centers are fully supplied with upgraded technological equipment, aiming to satisfy the demanding needs of modern business and leisure travelers. Comfort, professionalism and a superb level of services represent the core qualities offered at Capsis.
Asked her views on what the 2020 tourist season will bring, Kapnidou strikes an optimistic note for the not-too-distant future.
“Traveling and holiday-making is a way of life. Tourists will not stop coming,” she says, adding that the Greek hotel industry “must appeal to new target groups in Greece and abroad in order to ensure sustainability.”