ECONOMY

Hotels plan to strike back

Hoteliers must have a common response to pressure from tour operators, so that «blackmailing» for price reductions and discounting ends, said Marilena Mamidakis, owner and CEO of the Mamidakis group, in an interview with Kathimerini. The group controls two hotels in Crete as well as a conference center and a cultural multiplex, while being present in the catering, clothing and car markets, too. Mamidakis explains the private sector’s responsibility for the improvement of the Greek tourism product, and analyzes how important markets can be penetrated. Are you satisfied with the action taken after the Olympic Games by the Tourism Ministry toward returning growth to tourism? I am absolutely satisfied, seeing that at last the government recognizes that the tourism industry along with shipping are the only «heavy» industries in Greece and has taken the right steps to support and develop them. One of the core targets of the new tourism policy is the linking of Greek tourism with our rich cultural heritage. How do you think this target could be met? I wish to point out that my group is among the first in Greece to set as its strategic goal the linking of service provision with culture. A result of that, in practice, is the cultural multiplex Athinais, where the coexistence of cultural activities and tourism services (conferences, etc) are a reality. I extend the same philosophy to the group’s hotels, organizing art exhibitions and cultural events. This cultural heritage should be correctly promoted abroad through new, fresh and lively marketing. Our advertising campaign for tourism has to be modern – advanced, human and always tailor-made for each country targeted, using Greek culture and customs as tools. Everyone in the private sector involved in tourism must do their bit, big or small, to try and achieve cultural improvements that will contribute toward bettering the country’s image. With your long business presence in Crete, can you tell me whether more action is needed to raise Greece’s profile in foreign markets? Obviously, it is absolutely essential that we schedule fresh marketing drives and action not only to highlight our current profile in the foreign markets, but also for its dramatic improvement. After the Olympics, Greece has the right to claim to be a modern country with good infrastructure and know-how in providing services. Furthermore, the international conjunction helps our country shine as a safe travel destination, which we should exploit to the full. As for Crete, in particular, the promotion of olive oil in Cretan food has already started and should intensify. We must not forget that Crete is in urgent need of infrastructure improvement, especially as far as airports and roads are concerned, as well as infrastructure for services such as golf, theme parks, etc. Which new markets should Greek tourism target, beyond the main ones (the British and the German) in order to broaden its client-tourist base? Using the same mentality as some newcomers around the world – e.g. Turkey and Egypt earlier, and more recently Tunisia and Libya – who take a significant portion of outgoing tourism from traditional markets like the UK and Germany, so should Greece, which is heading to saturation in those markets, target new ones. The vast country of Russia, albeit not so new, is still a very promising market whose potential Greece, at least, has not tapped, though Russia and Greece have close cultural and religious ties. Therefore, this country has serious reasons to claim an important share of tourists from Russia. China, which is methodically invading the EU’s trade, is another massive incoming tourism market. Greece has to target that, using as its main attraction the similarly long history this country has, which will particularly move potential visitors from that Far Eastern country. In the last few years there has been pressure from foreign tour operators on Greek hoteliers to reduce prices, provide offers and discounts. How can the Greek hotelier handle this pressure? Foreign tour operators have really crushed hotel owners and destroyed their budgets with their constant demands for price reductions, offers and discounts, even in the middle of the season. They, too, have suffered in the oil crisis, the airplane crisis and world terrorism, and roll the costs over onto hoteliers. One solution to the problem would be a strong and united response on behalf of hoteliers, so that tour operators cannot find a weak point to create situations and blackmail. It is also essential that continuous renovations be made to hotels as well as upgrades of services, so that the product remains competitive, justifying modest price rises.