Hellenic Chamber of Hotels (HCH) President Alexandros Vassilikos and Greek Tourism Minister Vasilis Kikilias met this week to discuss a sustainable path for Greek hotels. According to a report from GTP, Kikilias met with members of the HCH board to address the pressing issues facing the sector. Underneath, however, the constant pecking need of hoteliers wanting government assistance looms large. Dissecting the GTP story reveals this.
Take Vassilikos underlining of this “need of government support” and the Greece 2.0 recovery plan that is laced with so-called sustainability lingo. The big and small hoteliers in this chamber have chimed on about a eco-friendly (2018-2019 HOTREC), economically feasible (Treasures of Greek Tourism 2018) future for years now (See Delphi Economic Forum 2018 NEW GLOBALIZATION AND GROWTH CHALLENGES). And then, here’s a rich one from the Hellenic Republic back in 2009 citing SETE, but you’ll note here that “sustainable” back then meant growth, and that’s it. Oh, before I leave this paragraph, I must include a SETE initiative closer to home, for Lassithi Prefecture here in Crete back in 2013. I will not go into the 2013 effort with Travellife, this is a story worth its own headline. But wait! Oh, look. There’s the new tourism with the buddies of the old tourism minister, TUI execs. Now there’s a sustainable future in the offing. (Vasilis, I said I’d give you the benefit, you’re blowing it.)
What different about today’s narrative is the fact Earth is heating up, and the trend is even bigger. These businesspersons turned environmentalists accomplished the travel growth, but nothing where truly long term sustainability is concerned. Now, throw in a pandemic, sagging demand for all-inclusive cookie cutter travel, and it’s a safe by Greece 2.0 will look like Greece 1.0, only with Santorini completely covered in tourists to the point the poor donkeys cannot walk.
In the report, the last thing on Vassilikos’ agenda was sustainability, which really amounts to hoteliers getting more funding to upgrade their properties. I am amazed at how these guys think the rest of the world cannot read between the lines. And the new tourism minister seems to be a more diplomatic version of the old one. Here’s what Kikilias said via GTP:
“Greek tourism professionals, in particular Greek hoteliers of large or small units are the ones who create jobs and income over time, they drive the economy and generate growth for the country.”
This is like hearing former Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis beating his chest and proclaiming tourism as the savior of Greece. When anyone with half a mind understands tourism to Greece, if Greece is to remain a top destination, needs to be cut and refined, rather than expanding into the country becoming the Florida of Europe. Now, Kikilias is promising these mostly big hoteliers money for upgrades and modernization, with sustainability as a buzz word for justifying a form of corporate government. Even their headline stinks since, “Hoteliers: Sustainable Hospitality a Priority for Greek Tourism,” is really last on their minds and in the report they sent to the media.
Yes, the hospitality Greece has to offer is unique, and the country has one of the strongest tourism brands in the world. But I see nothing in the moves of these leaders that would indicate they are trying to generate more so-called “quality tourism.”
I know these guys must hate me a lot on some level, but one more photo of a wealthy hotel mogul fist pumping a Greek official and I swear I will throw up on my keyboard. The reader must understand my position as a consumer advocate first of all, and as an analyst and reporter as well. Just parroting the press releases of these agencies, institutions, and bureaucrats is not my Job One. While timely news is important, the climate urgency we face today demands us to take off the kid gloves.
Every Greek I know has come to grips with the fact their politicians are just friendly looking liars. As for business people in Greece? They offer up their twist of what you’d see in a Hollywood flick about Wall Street. Only they are a bit cheesier. I have back room knowledge of how these hoteliers are working on their “sustainability” ideas. And keeping Santorini and other destinations pure for posterity, is the last thing on their minds. On the one hand, many of these hotel and resort oligarchs push out their tree hugging signs, while they point commanding fingers at the surveyors, architects, and engineers planning their next seafront fluffy pillow, buffet line featuring, swimming pools with beach cabanas. The reader will not believe what they intend to do with some of the world’s most pristine beaches (like Tholos above) and villages.
Money is making Greece’s hospitality go around, like always. The unfortunate thing for me is, these guys are just not smart enough to learn how they could make a lot more doing things the right way. My next slicing and dicing of these bean counting play actors will be all about that potential. Hate me guys, go ahead, I recall something a great man once said.
“I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt