The data to date and the state of our basic markets, make the goal of 50% of revenues in 2019 extremely difficult, but we have the certainty that if there are no health burdens, the strong brand that our country has created, the way  that it has managed the pandemic until today, but also the value of our tourism product, can lead to an unexpectedly good second semester.

This optimistic message was sent from the podium of the General Assembly of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) by the president Mr. Giannis Retsos, who also referred to the strategy of realism followed by SETE throughout the difficult period of the pandemic and identified seven challenges. of Greek tourism for the future.

In front of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Mr. Retsos praised the government for responding to the demands of the Greek tourism industry and called for continued support and closer cooperation between the public and private sectors.

In particular, the seven challenges described by Mr. Retsos are the following:

– The first, immediate, challenge is health. At this point, I would like to make it clear that with an absolute sense of responsibility, we have always embraced the need to protect public health. Both last year and this year, we chose to operate based for the real benefit of the country and the sector, which is the implementation of all the necessary health rules, while protecting our international image. In this context, therefore, the vaccinations of the population should be continued and escalated, and the safety protocols should be observed…

It is also necessary to launch the digital European vaccination certificate which will ensure a safe and stable environment, something that every traveler is looking for in the next phase of resumption of travel. And, at the same time, the mechanisms for dealing with future corresponding crises should be established. We must not forget that in the 21st century we are already in, we have already faced five major pandemics, which means that we must learn to operate under extremely difficult conditions. Without exaggeration, our country, through a very successful vaccination program, managed to gain international recognition.

But there is still much to be done to win the bet of autumn and the extension of the tourist season, through pandemic control. Convince me, with arguments, with absolute respect for fears and reservations, we must widen the safety net that will shield the level of public health in every local community.

– The second challenge is the continued support from the State. Much has been done, even more can be done, such as the single 11% VAT on tourism and transport. There was a pre-election announcement of the current Government, and if the budget allows it, it would be extremely useful and crucial to speed it up. Something that would greatly enhance the competitiveness of companies, in order to regain a larger part of their customer base, from a shrinking, for the second consecutive year, global tourist pie. On this occasion, and at a time when all the global tourism players are regrouping, we can now discuss a new tax framework that will not burden competitiveness with high taxation. We now know very well that any piecemeal moves to reduce tax rates do not solve any competitiveness problems.

– The third challenge concerns the Recovery Fund. The funds that will be channeled to the Greek economy from the Recovery Fund, will significantly support the country’s effort to emerge from the unprecedented crisis caused by the pandemic. They will create a multiplier positive result in the developmental process. They will give a new impetus to Greek tourism, to the Greek economy throughout Greece. They can within a few years change the image of the country and make it modern, competitive, with a new enriched tourism product that will meet the new requirements. Greece is being upgraded and we declare ourselves present in this great challenge.

– The fourth concerns infrastructure. The Institute of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, in September 2020, submitted a detailed study, which includes specific proposals for investments in public infrastructure projects throughout Greece. Something that can be a useful tool for the State, in a coordinated effort to strengthen the competitiveness of the tourism sector. Public investment in infrastructure aims to strengthen connectivity, attract new visitors, improve the tourist experience at the destination, create new experiences, promote sustainable development, to projects with a large and multiplier effect.

– The fifth challenge concerns the digital transformation of Greek tourism. And in this area the pandemic acted as an accelerator. The need for digital transformation has risen sharply. Already 95% of tourism companies worldwide are trying to introduce new technologies to meet the new environment, to meet emerging needs, to create an innovative base of competitiveness. Utilizing new digital technologies, tourism businesses must make the leap from basic digitization to the intelligent use of data to create new products and services. This is possible through technologies that transform the tourism sector, such as artificial intelligence, biometrics, blockchain, cloud and many more. In this area, too, we recently presented a study that includes 5 key pillars and 12 strategic actions to accelerate the digital transformation of the tourism sector.

– The sixth challenge has to do with the strategic partnerships of private and public bodies. It is a key point, it also concerns the issue of digital technologies, but mainly it has to do with the need for constant, with clear terms and procedures, cooperation of SETE and Marketing Greece with the Ministry of Tourism and the Hellenic Tourism Organization (EOT). Cooperation that we all know will greatly benefit Greek tourism and the image of the country abroad. Greece is a strong brand that we must protect and constantly evolve. With ideas from the future and not with stereotypes from the past. The difficult and demanding conditions we live in, require even more joining of forces, cooperation of all actors in the private and public sector. Separate paths do not benefit anyone. For SETE and MARKETING GREECE, which continue the great work of promoting our tourism product, the cooperation of the private with the public sector, is not a choice of opportunity. Nor is it just about the pandemic crisis. It is a timeless strategic pursuit for the good of tourism. Because we know very well that in order to achieve the coveted recovery, to write the next page of Greek tourism, you need experience, knowledge, and courage. Above all, we need the will to finally break free from the past.

– the seventh challenge is the whole grid that concerns the environment, green growth, climate change, and sustainability. A huge capital, a top challenge. starting from the individual destinations with the proper management of sold and liquid waste, extends to the energy and water adequacy, and ends in the protection of the environment as a major condition for tourism development. To all this we must add the immediate need to align our changes with climate change. It is here, present, already affecting global tourism and will universally affect it in the near future.

All the above compose a coherent and at the same time realistic road map for today and the next of Greek tourism, concluded the president of SETE.