V. Kikilias: Tourism is an economy of direct efficiency, it supports the people’s income

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The importance of tourism in the economic size of the Greek economy highlights in his interview with the Athenian / Macedonian News Agency, the Minister of Tourism Vassilis Kikilias emphasizing that “tourism is an economy of immediate return and supports the people’s income”. At the same time, he notes that the noticeable difference of the tourism industry is that the money from tourism goes directly to the real economy, giving a deep breath of “oxygen” to everyone, as he says.

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Focusing on the impact on Greek tourism from the war in Ukraine, the minister noted that the ministry works daily to overcome the difficulties that will arise, stating that the government already in certain areas and for tourism professionals who had as their main source of income visitors from Russia and Ukraine, elaborates a separate support plan for them.

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Answering a question, how he sees the evolution of tourism from America, Mr. Kikilias notes that at the end of the tourist year the fund will be made. He emphasizes that the tourist flows from the USA are critical, as they concern travelers who stay in our country for many days, and reminds that the first flight of an American company took place on March 7, earlier than any other year, while last week American Airlines announced that this year it offers Athens 80% more seats than in 2019.

Finally, he expresses his optimism for the development of the tourist year, noting that bookings are rising again while the tourist season in Greece started earlier than ever. In fact, he estimated that the agreements concluded by the Ministry of Tourism, recently, will bear fruit.

The following is the full text of the interview of the Minister of Tourism Vassilis Kikilias with Costas Chalkiadakis about APE-MPE.

In the midst of the global energy crisis and precision, many have pinned their hopes on tourism. How do you comment on that?

In this external crisis, the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis is moving forward with targeted support measures and initiatives for a common European response. Recently, the Prime Minister announced a new increase in the minimum wage from May 1, 2022, as in conditions of a -repeatable for at least 70 years- global crisis, the support of the people’s income is a condition for the survival of the people, support for the standard of living of the Greek society and the resilience of the Greek economy.

The most effective tool to achieve this goal is tourism, which brings 1 in 4 euros to the economy -that is 25% of GDP- and is the main popular economy of Greece.

The noticeable difference of the tourism industry is that the money from tourism goes directly to the real economy, giving a deep breath of “oxygen” to everyone: the restaurant entrepreneur, the tourism worker, the renter, the merchant, those who work in supply chain, the carrier, the owner of a mini market, the farmer. We work to support those who are affected and make it difficult. Our concept and our care to support many.

That is why the struggle we give is daily, the expectations are high and our strategy is multilevel. Every part of our country is a potential tourist destination and in many cases all year round. Our strategy, as you can see, is multilevel. We highlighted the winter destinations and the effort paid off. We “ran” a campaign for “Greekend” that went viral and its results were captured in Athens and Thessaloniki.

So tourism is a national venture, given the difficult international reality. And in this project, in this struggle, the employees have a leading role. Personally, in my political career, in ELAS and Health, I invested in the human factor and the support of the employees.

That is why, by raising the minimum wage and various institutional tools, we are directly supporting the income and dignity of the people in the tourism industry. It is something that is understood and believed by hoteliers and tourism professionals in general.

Because tourism is based first and foremost on human capital, on the interaction of visitor and employee.

Secondly, the merchants, the catering entrepreneurs, those who rent rooms or means of transport, I am talking about family businesses for which tourism brings income directly to their “wallet”.

Third, the primary production, our oil, our feta, our fruits, all that is produced by the Greek land and constitute a real treasure for our tourist product. And to say something about it. We will take the initiative so that Greek hotels have mostly Greek products. We want to take advantage of our comparative advantages and gain from it.

We are moving forward with a plan and determination and at the end of 2022 we will make a fund.

Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine continues. Are you worried about the impact on Greek tourism?

From the first moment of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Greece put above all its humanity, solidarity and practical support. We are already welcoming, caring for and hosting refugees. As the Ministry of Tourism, we are taking another step, as we give them the opportunity to work in the hotel industry, in jobs that were not covered by the domestic staff.

Regarding the impact on Greek tourism, it is a fact that the contribution to total revenue and travel traffic in general from Russia and Ukraine, is declining from 2013 onwards.

Be careful, we recognize the problem and do not underestimate any impact. For this reason, in certain areas and for tourism professionals whose main source of income was visitors from these two countries, the government is working on a separate support plan.

At the same time, however, we are working daily to overcome this difficult situation. We are strengthening markets, such as the American one, with the largest and most dynamic per capita expenditure, but also Balkan countries, such as the Romanian one, which last year was No. 1 in road tourism and has a special preference in Northern Greece. The upgraded brand “Greece” will reach through the campaign of the Hellenic Tourism Organization worldwide.

The market speaks of an “explosion” of American visitors to Greece in 2022. Do you share this estimate?

Mr. Chalkiadakis, I do not make predictions and estimates, I prefer to work every day and as I said before in the end we will make a “fund”.

In any case, targeting the US market has been our strategic choice in planning this year’s tourist season. With method and hard work, we managed to make deals and prepare the ground.

2022 is marked by a record number of direct flights from the USA: 9 daily flights from the largest American cities (New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia), with more than 460,000 available seats, until October.

It is characteristic that the first flight of an American company took place on March 7, earlier than any other year, while last week American Airlines announced that this year it offers 80% more seats in Athens than in 2019!

And the tourist flows from the USA, as I told you, are crucial, as they concern travelers who stay many days in our country, visit many different destinations and, above all, spend a lot of money. Because, as it is understood, in this explosive situation, real money, liquidity, consumption are needed. This consumption will give income to the many who are engaged and have to earn indirectly or directly from Greek tourism.

Our next goal is to extend some of these flights throughout the year. The resumption of the winter cruise from February 2023, which we expect to attract mainly American travelers, also contributes to this effort.

I would also like to dwell on the Greece-US agreement that we signed with Ambassador Payat a few days ago, updating after 31 years our cooperation in the field of tourism. An agreement that brings our two countries even closer.

What is the goal of Greek tourism for European tourists? Do you think that they are “numb” from the war in our European neighborhood? What are the moves you have made?

The war in Ukraine and the energy crisis that followed, it is true that caused a “numbness” in the first two weeks in the pace of bookings across Europe.

The “battle” we have given and are giving to take tourism higher, is great. The data we have so far, justify our effort.

This results not only from the rate of bookings but also from the actual number of arrivals from abroad, to all the airports of the country that have already opened – I am talking about Athens, Thessaloniki and the popular island destinations. Indicatively, let me tell you that from the last 10 days of March until today, we are moving either at the levels of 2019 or in some cases above 2019.

This is mainly a result of the hard work done this winter to bring the summer season earlier than ever.

In Chania, the first charter flight took place on March 28, while last year it was after the ten days of April.

In Heraklion the cruise started on April 3 with home port the port. Let me note regarding the cruise that in Thessaloniki the confirmed arrivals for 2022 are already 62, from 12 different companies, with 17 different cruise ships.

TUI Holidays, the largest tour operator in Europe, announced that for 2022 No1 in the preferences of travelers is Greece, along with Spain. Their CEO, Friedrich Joussen, on January 19, in a teleconference with the Prime Minister, expressed the belief that he will bring twice as many people to Greece this year, with his estimates reaching 3 million.

Also, more than 3,000,000 are already available air seats from France to our country.

The British market has for another year very high Greece as a tourist destination while their airlines record a large increase compared to 2019. It is characteristic that in all airports of the country there is a real battle to ensure more and better slots.

Also, Greece is in the first place of the preferences in the Scandinavian market and in many countries of Central Europe.

I mention all this, because above all, tourism is the most basic means of regional development that our country has. Our small islands and mountainous areas are attracting investment and retaining their population thanks to the tourist income.

In conclusion, Mr. Chalkiadakis, bookings are rising again, the tourist season in Greece has started earlier than ever and we are optimistic that the agreements we have concluded in the last six months, the daily efforts of all those involved in our tourism product will bear fruit.

Source: AMPE

Source: Capital

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