The tourism news from Greece now comes in two flavors. There’s the sugary sweet high-calorie version from officials whose jobs are at risk when the bubble finally bursts. Then there’s the version from intelligent experts who’ve come to the realization their futures lie in transparency and fact. Reading the 2021 tourism headlines today, we can see both the fantasy played out like a bad soap opera, alongside the crisp truth that nobody knows what’s going to happen this summer.
In the dreamy world where Greek leadership lives, it seems like propping up corporate stock prices is more important than reflecting the truly grim picture of Greece’s health and economic situation. Take the news Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is jaunting about Greek airports renovated by Fraport.
The rejuvenated airports on the same islands Mitsotakis sent vaccine vials to as a first priority are now the cruel evidence showing New Democracy prioritized German friends above at-risk residents. To be honest, I had forgotten about this Fraport investment and hadn’t previously linked it to Mitsotakis’ remote island health focus. For those unfamiliar, the so-called “Blue Freedom” campaign to innoculate everyone on smaller islands diverted vaccines from urban centers and the big island of Crete, so that these island destinations could be marketed as safe. I had originally thought TUI or the so-called Mr. Greece tours king could benefit. The Fraport aspect brings things into tighter focus.
Finally, the Frankenstein shocking of the Greek tourism product by Harry Theoharis now makes more sense too. When we got news Greece’s tourism minister was in Cancun, Atlanta, and other world destinations pimping an uncertain tourism season, the 2021 vacation redux just seemed like crazy disjointedness or stupidity on autopilot. But the fact is Greece and a lot of EU interests are about to go broke unless a miracle happens sometime this summer. Hoteliers are flat broke. TUI is a banana peel from going under. One look at these Instagram shares of Crete’s most famous beaches should solidify what I am suggesting. Multiply the loss of thousands of visitors to places like Elafonisi Beach, VAI, and the seashore at Malia and the losses for companies like TUI become staggering.
I’ve no doubt Fraport’s coffers were close to empty back in March when the stock was in the toilet. Looking into the stock, I find it miraculous that investment advisors have been rating Fraport a hold or buy stock for months now. The stock is up as of today, but their balance sheet is awful. The company’s liabilities total €7.75b more than the combination of its cash and short-term receivables. So, it makes sense that desperation breeds big lies, so there’s the end of the 2021 tourism fairytale.
Now let’s look at the intelligent version, from Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) President Yiannis Retsos. The veteran hotelier and tourism expert says predicting arrivals and revenues is impossible because of the long list of COVID-19 uncertainties still plaguing Greece. Retsos was initially on board with the politicians from last summer when it seemed like Greece had beaten the pandemic for good. Then when the second wave crashed through the wonderland looking glass, the SETE chief and Hellenic Federation of Hoteliers President Grigoris Tasios have been sounding the reality horn since the start of the year. Hoteliers are strapped for cash to operate, and the whirlwind predictions that make corporate stocks stay fluid do nothing for individual businesses.
Now the government is blaming anti-vaxers, the EU, and the dark forces of Mordor for the vaccine rollout lagging. Officials are in full denial mode even though their travel happy balloon is busting already. May is a disaster, as evidenced by deserted beaches here on Crete. June is not looking any better, and there’s no good news yet on the UK making Greece green for Brit travelers. And the projections they are making don’t even suggest good bean-counting capability. I spoke yesterday with the most successful hotel marketing practitioner in Greece and he’s saying July and August’s bookings look good. But nobody is putting the losses from April, May, and June into their happy days revenue calculators.
Can anyone reading this tell me what half of half is? Even if all the hotels and resorts in Greece are booked 100% in July and August, almost half of the potential revenues will be lost again this year. I don’t want to bore readers with the charts showing 2020 profits and losses, but it seems obvious 2021 will probably be even worse given the lingering COVID-19 disaster. All these “experts” seem to forget that travelers need jobs and money in order to vacation in Greece anyhow. I think all the demand news is fluff as well. OTAs and tour operators predicting a travel bonanza does not seem like prudent forecasting data for me.
On the flip side, the Bank of Greece revealed recently that the country’s banks have the highest level of non-performing loans in the European Union, more than 10 times the EU average. In my opinion, one more big hit to Mitsotakis’ grand tourism scheme for 2021, and the whole country will sink into a bigger recession than 2008-2009. I am hoping this dreamy dice roll by New Democracy comes up winners, but nobody with a fraction of a realistic view is optimistic beyond prayer mode.