Despite its rich cultural heritage and attractive climate Greece’s modern-day struggle with the economy is set to hit this summers tourist trade.
There was a slump of 25 per cent in visitors two years ago, last year trade bounced back only for bookings to dip again. One hotel owner said his reservations from Germany – traditionally Greece’s biggest tourist market – have dropped by half.
It is a business which accounts for almost 16 percent of the country’s GDP. One in five of the workforce depend on tourism for a job while the total annual revenue in 2011 was estimated to be ten billion euros.
Recent figures point to 18 hotels being forced to close in the capital, 80 across the country. Bookings too in the popular islands like Zante are down, its reckoned visitors from Ireland and Germany have dropped by a half. Restoring the good image of the country will be vital.
Yiannis Retsos, President of the Hellenic Hotel Federation believes the country must remain in the eurozone and restore its good image.
“I think this is very critical for us, we are in front of July and August, which are the most important months regarding tourism in Greece. I think we are late but on the other hand, I think we have time to get back the reservations we seen to be losing at this point.
‘Here people come to stay in a nice hotel of course, but then to go in a nice village, in a nice city, have dinner or lunch outside, interact with people and visit a western country, not a country like 30 or 40 years ago.”
Many of Athens luxury hotels are now playing a vital role in helping Athens poor and unemployed by providing good left overs from their kitchens for the hungry. It was the idea of Xenia Papastravrou who gave up her job to pursue the project.
“Hotels are very, very important to us. The Association of Hotels of Athens and in Attica are giving us 1250 meals a week, and they are cooking specially for soup kitchens and institutions in their neighbourhoods,” she explained.
Xenia Papastravrou’s scheme has helped to create a new solidarity in the capital. The jobless wait to get back to work while the hotel industry and tourist trade struggles from the drop in reservations wondering and waiting to see if those vacancies can be filled.