Yiannis Paraschis: It will take time in a new environment
ATHENS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (AIA)
We are in the third month of the deepest crisis in the recent history of aviation and tourism, which has resulted in very painful consequences. At the same time, the European borders have just reopened for air travel.
Fortunately, Europe is now reacting in a coordinated manner for the resumption of flights. Despite the difficulty of predicting developments, we are hoping that the worst is behind us.
Air travel is a vital part of the economy. In the case of Greece, in particular, tourism accounts for about 20 percent of GDP. More than two thirds of tourists arrive in our country by air, and Athens International Airport’s (AIA) contribution to the country’s GDP amounted to 4.4 percent in 2019.
In 2020 we are fighting a difficult battle with an unpredictable “invisible enemy.” For our airport, the year started with the best omens; however, it seems that 2020 and 2021 will be very difficult years. Our experience from previous crises – obviously, without making any comparisons with the one we are going through today – is indicative. All one has to do is look back at the three years it took for Athens’ airport to regain its momentum after the events of September 11, 2001.
Today, just one year after the company invested 1.4 billion euros in a 20-year extension of the airport concession agreement (2026-46) overtaking a very high loan, Athens International Airport is facing the consequences of a crisis of a much bigger scale.
The lockdowns and the banning of cross-border travel to deal with the pandemic have highlighted the extremely vulnerable nature of air travel and airports. Returning to a status of normality after a prolonged period of zero activity for the industry will take time.
We are facing an uncertain path to recovery that will have structural impact on air transport. It is now certain that the future world of travel will be very different from the previous one. The crisis has favored the “non-physical economy” over the “physical contact economy,” which obviously includes air transport.
One of the relatively safe predictions one can make is about business travel, which is expected to be largely replaced by digital solutions. Fortunately for our country and our tourism industry, this is not at all obvious in the case of leisure travel, which is perhaps an irreplaceable human pleasure.
In order to restore the desired normality, the epidemiological developments remain crucial and, in terms of our country’s effort, Greece has built a very positive image which is important to capitalize on.
This would involve investing in upgrading the healthcare system and the country’s digital infrastructure, especially at the country’s tourist destinations.
At the same time, it is primarily necessary to safeguard employment. The plans to support employment in the affected sectors such as airlines and airports through both European and national funds is a crucial factor in tackling and reducing the impact.
In addition, the concept of social responsibility has today acquired a much broader meaning. When it comes to the economy and employment, the State, businesses and employees must all protect social cohesion and peace in the workplace in order to move forward.
THE COMPANY AT A GLANCE
Sector: Travel & Leisure
Employees: 1.595 (31/12/2019)
Financial Results (H1 2019): €405,40 million
Course of Stock (2019): +9,7%