ECONOMY

Greek tourism hampered by its seasonality

The Greek tourism industry, trying to shake off its prevalent international image as a sea-and-sun destination in order to even out its seasonal character, is unlikely to make much progress before 2020, according to a study by the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE). Notably, in the 1990-2000 decade the three summer months accounted for more than 50 percent of tourism arrivals. The same model has continued over the last five years as well, the study found. Titled «The Challenge of Competitiveness and the Need for Repositioning the Greek Tourism Product,» the study reports that high labor costs are another problem for local tourism enterprises, undermining their competitiveness. Researchers conducted a survey in six Mediterranean countries, asking hoteliers about their costs for a chambermaid, a receptionist and a waiter with minimum experience of five years. The combined monthly cost of hiring these three professionals is 12,532 euros in Greece, against 11,795 euros in Cyprus, 12,090 euros in Spain and just 5,894 euros in Turkey. This finding signifies that domestic tourism cannot compete in costs but only in differentiating its product, offering richer experiences and upgraded services for which it is essential to employ well-trained human resources. Tourism infrastructure has the great advantage of being permanently where it is based, unlike traditional industry which often relocates. It also is the main activity that can develop equally in city centers and in virtually every other spot in the country. Regional convergence is in great need of the balanced development of tourism activity. Monitoring the concentration of hotel beds in 1990, 2000 and 2004, a small improvement emerges toward a more balanced development, although this remains distant given that as much as 52 percent of tourism is concentrated in just three of Greece’s 13 regions. As for the country’s hotels, the study concludes that more than 90 percent of its sample in Athens were constructed before 1995, against just 43 percent in Lisbon, 46 percent in Istanbul and 59 percent in Barcelona. The problem is also seen in destinations such as Iraklion, Crete, and the island of Zakynthos where 47 and 50 percent of hotels respectively have been built before 1985. On the other hand, after the renovations made for the 2004 Olympic Games, Athens has very good hotel infrastructure, yet this alone cannot attract greater demand.