Septem­ber in­crease too lit­tle to off­set tourism rev­enue de­cline

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY STATHIS KOUSOUNIS

The coun­try’s tourism rev­enues recorded year-on-year losses of 703 mil­lion euros in the first nine months of 2016, ac­cord­ing to data re­leased yes­ter­day by the Bank of Greece.

The rev­enues of the coun­try’s biggest in­dus­try dropped by 5.5 per­cent in the Jan­uary-Septem­ber 2016 pe­riod to 12.08 bil­lion euros from 12.78 bil­lion a year ear­lier. At the same time the big win­ners this year have been Cyprus and Spain, record­ing an­nual growth in rev­enues of 13.6 per­cent and 6.3 per­cent re­spec­tively.

The to­tal num­ber of tourism ar­rivals in the year to end-Septem­ber posted an in­crease of 3.5 per­cent. In Septem­ber alone, ar­rivals recorded yearly growth of 13.7 per­cent while rev­enues inched up 2.3 per­cent.

The de­clin­ing course of tourism rev­enues con­firms the neg­a­tive fore­casts that the coun­try’s tourism as­so­ci­a­tions had warned about. In the con­text of the Philox­e­nia ex­hi­bi­tion in Thes­sa­loniki, Hel­lenic Ho­tel Fed­er­a­tion head Yiannis Ret­sos told the coun­cil of ho­tel as­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dents that the short­fall in rev­enues in re­la­tion to the growth in ar­rivals is sig­nif­i­cant.

Hote­liers saw that the course of rev­enues was par­tic­u­larly con­cern­ing mid­sea­son when ri­val des­ti­na­tions were filled to ca­pac­ity, so they re­sorted to big dis­counts and ex­ten­sive spe­cial of­fers to bol­ster de­mand. Af­ter the coup at­tempt in Turkey on July 15, the flow of ar­rivals in­creased, but the dis­counts granted to last-minute book­ings meant rev­enues re­mained in neg­a­tive ter­ri­tory, af­fect­ing the ho­tel en­ter­prises’ fi­nan­cial re­sults, ac­cord­ing to Ret­sos.

He added that, in terms of tax hikes, ho­tels were hit harder than any other sec­tor, and es­pe­cially year-round ho­tels, which have the great­est tax bur­den of all.

Ret­sos fur­ther noted that Greece has been quite a pricey des­ti­na­tion for vis­i­tors this year. He made spe­cial ref­er­ence to the in­crease in value-added tax rates, not only on ac­com­mo­da­tion and food ser­vice, but also on goods and ser­vices that tourists pay for, to higher trans­port costs and to the more ex­pen­sive ad­mis­sion tick­ets for mu­se­ums and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites.

As for the han­dling of the refugee problem, which has been the main source of neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity for Greece as a des­ti­na­tion, Ret­sos said that this is a tar­get that ap­pears too dif­fi­cult to at­tain.

Speak­ing at the same event, Tourism Min­is­ter Elena Koun­toura re­ferred to the ini­tia­tives her min­istry has taken to boost tourism this sea­son, and said the dif­fer­ence in the Bank of Greece data on rev­enues and ar­rivals is “un­jus­ti­fi­able.” She also cited tour op­er­a­tor data to dis­pute that Greek hote­liers of­fered dis­counts, claim­ing that Greek pack­age holidays were more ex­pen­sive than those in Spain.

While in­au­gu­rat­ing the Philox­e­nia ex­hi­bi­tion in Thes­sa­loniki, Tourism Min­is­ter Elena Koun­toura said that the dif­fer­ence in the Bank of Greece data on rev­enues and ar­rivals is ‘un­jus­ti­fi­able.’

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