Washington, D.C. (GreekNewsOnline)
Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis presented the development and investment opportunities offered by the tourism sector in Greece, on Tuesday, closing day of the two-day conference on “Southeast Europe & East Mediterranean: New Strategies, New Perspectives”.
The conference was organized by the Delphi Economic Forum and the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini in Washington, with the Hellenic American Leadership Council.
Theoharis, one of several Greek ministers on the agenda, spoke of the rising number of tourist arrivals in Greece, reflecting the sector’s competitive standing and the improvement of the Greek economy. He also referred to plans to expand the tourist season and of the key role tourism plays in the government’s strategy for development, innovation and extroversion.
The Minister’s address is as follows:
During the last decade, the GDP of Greece suffered a substantial drop. Three massive public debt financing, fiscal adjustment and structural reform programmes prevented the collapse of the economy, but produced a lot of uncertainty, high unemployment and a significant fall in investment.
The government change in Greece has signalled a positive turn for its economy. The Greek economy has started to perform at an above average rate, the yields of government bonds have fallen surprisingly sharply, the credit rating agencies have set the country into an uptrend rating path, and the central bank of Greece has lifted all the capital controls, re-establishing completely free flow of capital.
This positive turn took place largely thanks to a reformist agenda that this government has put forward.
Tax and contribution rate reductions, business licencing simplification, investment incentives, labour market liberalization are all part of a continuous effort to turn Greece to an investment destination of first preference and absolute excellence.
We, as policymakers, consider tourism as a strategically important sector. A sector that can attract long-term foreign investment, create employment and promote growth in the periphery of the country.
In 2018, inbound tourism to Greece was at an all-time high with 33.1 million arrivals, an increase of 9.7% on 2017. 2019 will be for Greek tourism an all-time high record year.
The substantial increase of tourist volume in Greece perfectly mirrors the rapid improvement of competitiveness of the sector and the Greek economy overall and the strengthening of the Greek touristic proposition. Revenues followed this trend in almost perfect correlation with the rest of the figures.
At the same time tourism industry has been drifting upwards affecting all the key elements and performance indicators. With the need the Greek tourism product to stay competitive and meet the ever-increasing international demand has led to its gradual upgrading, leading to a higher quality hotel stock.
Impressive tourism performance is not leaving indifferent domestic and foreign investors. Large chains and hotel management companies are entering the Greek market dynamically, seeing its excellent prospects. Over the past two years, a total of € 3.8 billion has been invested in new hotel development and refurbishment, with 41.3% of total spending on 4 and 5-star hotels.
All domestic and international “names” have strengthened their presence in Greece in recent years.
Apart from individual real estate projects, it is also of great interest to launch mega projects, with a wealth of luxury units that will help to establish Greece as a luxury destination worldwide.
Investment in tourism is moving forward. In a sector where the country had an outstanding performance, even during the crisis years, a plethora of successful projects are under way and many more just started to attract an ascending international attention.
Investment’s community interest has revived and is sound. Especially in our fire-brand islands and in the list of assets that are under disposal by the Greek State. Accommodation and combined purpose projects, as well as marinas are currently attracting a mega-wave of interest. At the same time the Greek government is already implementing a set of policies in order develop the supporting infrastructure and mitigate the existing bottlenecks of tourism growth.
At the core of our strategy for tourism investment lies the concept of sustainable growth and the generation of multiplication effects and backward supply linkages in various sectors of the Greek economy. This is achievable through the successful rebranding of the Greek touristic proposition in terms of quality and authenticity. Our plan focuses in the promotion of new, less advertised, themes and destinations.
Diversification of tourism markets and mitigation of the seasonality factor are our most important objectives.
Greece’s Tourism Strategy aims to promote Greece as a global attractive destination for tourism 365 days a year that offers unique and authentic travel experiences.
Tourism for the new Greek Government is at the centre of national development, innovation and extroversion.
In this respect, main targets of the national tourism policy are:
a) to improve the competitiveness of the national tourism product, its quality, authenticity, resilience and sustainability
b) and to boost investment in high quality accommodation and complexes with a low environmental footprint.
The five axes of the National Tourism Strategic Plan are as follows:
high-standards infrastructure, improvement of the licensing framework to attract high-quality investments eliminate red tape and optimal spatialization of tourism;
respect to sustainability principles
constant improvement of accessibility and interconnection by enhancing the country’s air connections and, by expanding and upgrading the national marinas’ network;
optimal management of the tourism experience to make it increasingly qualitative and attractive by enhancing, inter alia, sustainable destination management and tourism education;
redesigning of the tourism product, redefinition of its brand and communication plan to reflect the engagement in quality, authenticity, resilience, sustainability and value for money.
Within this framework, the Ministry of Tourism is implementing a comprehensive tourism policy to diversify the tourism product, upgrade the tourism – infrastructure and embed the tourism sector in the local economy,
These will lead to: more and better jobs, increased tourism expenditure, spatially dispersed tourism demand, protected and monetized natural and cultural resources.
Even more importantly will be a driver for positive spill-over effects on the national economy through effective destination management.
Regarding the improvement – of connectivity -throughout the country, Greece has prioritized interventions that facilitate the access of visitors to remote or unapproachable areas through land and water (roads, motorways and ports).
Critical investments are also in progress in a number of regional airports. In particular, as stipulated in the -relevant agreement with Fraport, five airports will be completed by the end of the year, while the whole programme of airports upgrade is expected to be concluded at the end of 2021.
Improved access alongside with the tourism strategy of promoting less-known destinations are expected to facilitate spreading the benefits of tourism to the whole national territory.
Last but not least I would like to highlight the fact that the ministry of tourism and all its departments are committed in and fully oriented towards facilitating and accelerating all the necessary administrative and licensing investment steps.
The future of tourism industry looks very promising, mirroring the great potentials of the Greek Economy. The increasing trend of global tourism, combined with the comparative advantage of the Greek tourism product, provides an excellent opportunity for further development of the industry. While the Greek investment recovery supported by market-friendly policies acts as a guarantee of resilient macroeconomic and business performance and an undeniable invitation for more investment projects in the country.