By Ilias Bellos
6 out of 10 rooms at the 4 star hotel in Kolymbia on Rhodes have already been booked for the 2018 tourist season. Half of those reservations have been made by the German market, the hotel’s general manager told Kathimerini newspaper. Furthermore, he notes, the discount for those reservations doesn’t exceed 10%, as demand from Germany is even higher than it was last year.
As such, it was little surprises that representatives from the entire Greek tourism industry were in Berlin last week in order to participate in the ITB Berlin international tourism fair, the largest of its kind in Europe.
For Greek tourism, it is estimated that this market will bring in over 3 billion euros in revenue; receipts from Germany increased by 31.9% reaching 2.539 billion euros in 2017 according to data from the Bank of Greece, while this year, according to figures from the research agency GfK, German travel agents have reported an increase in sales of trips to Greek destinations of approximately 40% compared to last year.
Provided this trend continues even at the level of a 10% increase, the number of German visitors to Greece will easily surpass 4 million: last year tourism from Germany increased by 18.1% compared to 2016 reaching 3.706 million travelers according to SETE Intelligence, the research arm of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE).
But its not all roses for Greek tourism in Germany. In Berlin last week there were tourism professionals from all over the world. The countries represented included Turkey which is seeing a dramatic rebound in demand from Germany following the precipitous fall seen in recent years due to terrorist strikes and last year’s attempted coup.
Specifically early data including the month of January indicate a dynamic rebound in demand for Turkish holidays in the German market – on the order of a 90% increase. “With the high taxation on Greek hotels, it is impossible for us hoteliers to compete with our Turkish counterparts on price,” a Greek businessman warned, speaking to Kathimerini in Berlin. And that does not only apply to the Turks.
Demand in Germany is up by about 80% for holidays in Tunisia in 2018, and 70% for holidays in Egypt. “2018 may be the last year of increasing numbers of foreign visits in Greece,” one professional worried.
He is not alone. A few days ago SETE Intelligence warned that there are indications of “much more intense conditions of competition from 2019 an onwards, which Greek tourism faces at a serious competitive disadvantage due to high taxation (VAT, Stayover tax) of the touristic product.”
But tourism is more than just Germany, even if it is the most important single market for Greece. The second most important is the UK, but there the Brexit process has affected consumer confidence and prevented a rise in demand for Greek destinations. The indications are that demand in France is rising only sluggishly.
At the same time however, things are distinctly sunnier in the American market. “We have a significant increase in bookings for private tours in Greece,” said the vice president of a company that caters to high income visitors from the US.
Tourism professionals also stress that Greece can continue to increase the number of tourists by providing a broader range of experiences.
“While 30 million tourists from May to September is a huge number, it could reach 40 million in nine months if the touristic period was extended,” the president of SETE, Yiannis Retsos told Bloomberg in an interview.
This article was first published on ekathimerini.com