Greek tourism is accelerating, with the most important hotel companies in the world, but also Greek investors, buying and building mainly four-star and five-star hotels in Athens and popular island destinations.
The pandemic not only did not slow down the explosive growth of the hotel market, but further boosted investment in luxury hotels, with investors betting on a brilliant “day after”. Greek tourism, after the first freeze and the challenge caused by the coronavirus, finally managed within two Covid-19 seasons (2020 and 2021) to activate more domestic and foreign funds of hundreds of millions of euros, for multi-star units that are coming to upgrade the Greek tourism product further and lay the foundations for attracting visitors of higher income criteria in the coming years.
According to the official data of the Hellenic Hotel Chamber (HHC), in the two years 2019 – 2020 81 new hotels were added, ie the 9,971 units (433,689 rooms and 856,347 beds) rose to 10,052 (438,294 rooms and 869,250 beds). There was a further increase in 2021, ie in absolute numbers, in the three years 2019 – 2021, about 150 new hotels were added.
The difference was made by the two upper categories, where the “five-star” units throughout the territory rose to 651 from 610, while the “four-star” reached 1,708 from 1,664 in 2019. In the other categories 65 new hotels were added , with the three star units becoming fewer.
In Athens alone, 32 hotels were opened with a total of 1,600 rooms while almost 1,300 new hotel rooms are currently under construction in Athens. In particular, within the next five years, high prestige foreign chains, without a previous presence in Greece, are expected to partake in this “Athenian party”. Conrad and Waldorf Astoria are collaborating to transform the Hilton into a complex that will combine high end apartments and advanced hospitality services, One & Only are working to revive the historic complex in Asteria of Glyfada, while the Ellinikon project will add two more luxury hotels “on the sea” with 2,500 rooms.
The Airbnb threat
The question that concerns hoteliers and financial analysts is the following: Does the country, and especially Athens, have “room” for all these hotels that are being inaugurated or are about to be inaugurated in the next few years? Can the Greek tourism product bear the scale and size of these investments? The owners of the new units are obviously looking forward to the post-pandemic era, but will the increase in demand be so explosive that it will absorb the oversupply of accommodation, if the total restoration of airbnb is added? Are we heading for a “bubble” in the hotel market, as some fear?
As the president of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), Giannis Retsos, has already pointed out several times, everything suggests that the current decade will be a period of special tourism development worldwide. The aging of the population in developed countries, says Mr. Retsos, accumulates time, money and mood for travel. The end of the pandemic will accelerate this trend.
As far as Athens is concerned, its tourism product is constantly being enriched and will be enriched even more in the near future. The projects in Ellinikon will not only affect the purely real estate sector, but will leave a strong tourist imprint, as they will put Athens on a different high-income client map, creating a completely new dynamic. This is the reason why international hotel brands are already rushing to book a place in the “next day” of the market that is being created. They anticipate the dynamics of a very complex destination such as Athens and from this point of view a flurry of investment is expected.
According to Mr. Retsos, there are also “casual players”, but the visitor today is much more informed, has requirements beyond room and breakfast, and seeks personalized experience and value for money. It is obvious that investors who will just want to speculatively take advantage of the situation will not go very far.