Greek tourism industry strives to heal pandemic wounds

Greece is currently the biggest selling destination for global travel group Thomas Cook after the company’s restart a few weeks ago as an online-only business, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alan French has told the Greek national news agency AMNA recently.

Regarding Thomas Cook’s relaunch after last year’s bankruptcy, French noted that the company is now free from the financial burdens of the past and is operating under a very different business structure.

“We are also backed by the Fosun Tourism Group, one of China’s largest and best-resourced companies, which has over 100 billion U.S. dollars in assets and which already owns a range of other very successful European travel brands, including Club Med,” he said.

The Fosun Tourism Group acquired the Thomas Cook brand and its online assets in November 2019, AMNA noted.

French’s remarks came as Greece’s local tourism industry is striving to heal the wounds from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Greek tourism crumbled,” said an article published by the Greek daily Ta Nea (The News) on Tuesday, citing the results of a survey conducted for the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels.

Only six out of 10 hotels in Greece opened this year after the spring lockdown and the average occupancy rate in July, August and September stood at 23.1 percent.

Despite the coronavirus gloom, the chamber’s President, Alexandros Vassilikos, said he was confident that recovery will begin next year.

“Greece is a fantastic country offering a wide range of holidays to suit all travelers throughout the year, so we expect its popularity to continue,” he told AMNA in an interview on Monday.

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we know that there is still strong consumer demand to go on holiday,” he explained.

Addressing a recent forum in Athens, Yiannis Retsos, president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), was also confident that the Greek tourism industry will bounce back starting from 2021.

The SETE estimates in a recent report that tourism revenues will reach only three billion euros (3.53 billion U.S. dollars) this year compared to 23.4 billion euros generated last year.

Tourism accounts directly and indirectly for about 30 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP), the SETE said.

Last year, Greece welcomed about 33 million tourists, according to the Central Bank of Greece. This year, in the period between January and August, there was an estimated 80 percent year-on-year decline in tourist arrivals, the central bank said. (1 euro = 1.17 U.S. dollars)