Many Hotels in Greece Still Shuttered as Tourist Wave Fails to Materialize this Summer



Despite hopes that domestic tourism, along with travelers from what was considered “safe” countries, would save the tourist season in Greece, many hotels are still closed while the rate of occupancy in those that are open is as low as 25 percent.

Hoteliers were hoping that the opening of regional airports on July 15 would bring the desperately-needed waves of foreign tourists to popular holiday destinations — but to no avail.

While Greece has been branded one of the safest place to travel this summer because of the low number of coronavirus cases, the tourist inflow has been lower than expected.

“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,” Sofia Matzourani of the Aqua Vista chain of hotels in the Cyclades told Greek Reporter recently.

Speaking to iefimerida.gr news website, the president of Hellenic Hoteliers Federation Grigoris Tassios, admitted that “July is leaving us with an average occupancy of 25 percent nationwide, despite the opening of the countries.” Tassios estimated that the arrival rate of tourists will still remain sluggish for the first ten days of August.

Hotel closures and low occupancy rates, understandably, are global phenomena this year, by no means confined to Greece, a perennial favorite destination for world travelers. The hotel industry globally has had to face an unprecedented crisis worldwide since the beginning of this year. Hotels and resorts many times either remain closed or are operating at very limited capacity.

According to the Bank of Greece data on the effects of the pandemic, in the first five months of 2020, the nation recorded a decrease of 78.5 percent in receipts from tourism, while in May alone the number of tourist arrivals decreased 97.7 percent. The all-essential revenue from tourism in Greece dropped 99.2 percent compared to the figures from 2019.

With the Greek borders closed to tourists from the United States and Russia — as numerous holidaymakers from the two countries traditionally visit Greece in the summer — hotels and resorts are losing a significant portion of their annual revenue from just t hose sources alone.

Adding to that unfortunate reality is just a reluctance of people from other countries to travel in general this year, whether for fear of Covid-19 or because of a loss of income. Bluntly put, the summer season of 2020 seems lost for Greece’s essential tourism industry.

Could Greek citizens alone save the 2020 season?

According to Platon Lemonopoulos of Litohoro Olympus Resort Villas & Spa, this simply cannot happen. He recently explained to Greek Reporter “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 a 40 percent occupancy rate.”

Lemonopoulos said that it is inevitable that some smaller hotels will not reopen at all this year, since “a hotel owner will think twice about opening if there is only 20 percent occupancy.”

Even Rhodes, one of the most popular islands for foreign and Greek vacationers, has seen an unprecedented low tourist inflow this summer.

“Occupancy and arrivals in Rhodes have been reduced by 70 percent,” Ioannis Pappous, the president of the Dodecanese Chamber of Commerce told the website newsit.gr in an interview. “Let’s hope the situation improves in August and September. The best visitors are the Germans, as the English market is still very low, while the Russians are non-existent.”

“For the Greeks, unfortunately, coming to Rhodes is prohibitive, due to the high cost of transportation,” he continued. “It is almost August and seven out of ten hotels, even very large hotel units, remain closed. We estimate that since the beginning of the tourist season we have lost 1.5 million arrivals.”

Nevertheless, hoteliers remain optimistic that the period from August 7 to 20 will make up for some of the lost revenue. It is a period when most public and private sector employees in Greece traditionally take their annual leave and travel to popular islands or seaside destinations.

Additionally, the shoulder season, including September and October, are increasingly popular with travelers worldwide since the Greek weather is extremely hot during July and August. Greek tourist officials hope that better days are in the offing soon for this nation, which earns 20% of its revenue from that sector.