Mountain resorts and incentives
Mountain resorts, hotels, leisure centres, etc., are collapsing economically, while the conversion of mountain hotels to apartments for sale, etc., is the worst that could happen, even though due to the poor number of tourists on a constant basis (not only on weekends) justifies their closure.
So, what can we do?
How can the mountain resorts be supported when they are in desperate need of a sewage system, which does not exist, yet everybody pays for it in addition to the heavy property taxes. The abolition of these rates, only in the case of hotels and agrotourism units, is a must.
These hotels that also have a problem finding proper staff should be subsidised with a cap of 1,000 euros per room per year, if these units guarantee that they will operate for at least six months during the winter period. This way, the rural hoteliers can be encouraged to keep on permanent staff and choose the best ones, because seasonal work is not very attractive for any employee, ranging from cooks to management.
Beach properties that have regular and repeat customers, and are often over-booked in the peak season, should be encouraged to make investments in the mountain areas, even with small units of 10-20 rooms, that would not need to conform with the strict CTO regulations. If, for example, the owner of the Le Meridien wants to invest about EUR 2 mln in a mountain property, either for new units or refurbishment of older ones, the investors should be offered an incentive in the form of transferring the building coefficient from the mountain resort to his seaside property, at a rate of, say, 100 sq.m. per room invested. This way, the beach hotel will gain a further 2,000 sq.m. building coefficient, which does not exist at present, adding a further 50 rooms, in exchange for the 20 rooms in the mountains that would have otherwise been closed down or abandoned. The difference is pure profit.
Incentives should be offered to local and foreign tour operators for stays of at least two nights, with a subsidy of about 20% on the accommodation and transport. The real cost would be minimal and could be adjusted according to volume.
It is clear that most of the owners of these mountain units are elderly and not necessarily educated or trained in modern management techniques, and thus cannot promote their units in order to compare them with the highly efficient and richer seaside resorts. In this direction, the state should encourage a new Promotion Agency for activities at home and abroad, with separate participation at international tourism exhibitions that should be sub-contracted to private firms. This promotion should encompass all activities to include tourism, wellness, spas, sports, hiking, cycling, etc. The cost may be in the range of EUR 200,000 a year but this will quickly be recouped from the economic activity in the mountain areas and from employment and investment opportunities.
Owners who rarely visit their family mountain homes should be encouraged to induct their properties into a directory for rent on a daily or short-term basis, similar to hostels or inns that operate in the Greek isles, conditional to securing local approval for quality and service.
It is obvious that we do not need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to the mountain resorts, but their success is linked only to new approaches, such as the fine example of Kalopanayiotis, Omodos and Kakopetria, to name just a few.