The Hellenic Hoteliers Federation (POX) is now calling for a unified approach in dealing with the negative booking impact caused by recent government actions. While valid on some points, the petition ends up looking like a policy/funding lever, and as bad form by the hotelier association.
After an uptick in COVID-19 positive tests from neighbor country tourists, Athens officials called for mandatory testing at the Promahonas border crossing. POX officials say the new testing has caused bookings in northern Greece hotels to plummet.
Greece’s Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis and his deputy Manos Konsolas were petitioned by the POX saying the increased testing has caused uncertainty and confusion among tourists.
The hoteliers fear the new procedures in the middle of the rebooted tourist season has caused people to cancel or to fail to book holidays. POX says forecasts of 40-50 percent occupancy levels fell to 20 percent due to the announcement and are not expected to exceed that figure this year.
Conversely, here on Crete hoteliers are at even the most popular resorts and hotels were seeing occupancy in the 20-30% range even before the Promahonas measures came into effect. Yesterday, in downtown Heraklion, I could scarcely find a foreigner even on the busiest touristic avenues.
I mention this because I am not sure what the federation hopes to gain from urging the government “to refrain from making detailed announcements concerning Covid-19 developments in specific areas.” POX is reportedly suggesting that Athens announcing specific measures to combat COVID-19 is “creating a bad reputation for certain destinations.” The hoteliers say these announcements create a “false impression” and that travelers have less confidence booking.
The POX petition feels a lot more like a leverage point to get more government support, than a genuine appeal for “unified” action. At the end of the GTP report POX is cited as requestzing additional support measures for hotels which are now expected due to Covid-19 to shoulder additional (by 5-7 percent) precautionary costs.
To POX’s credit, the organization’s President Grigoris Tasios calling for mandatory Covid-19 testing 72 hours ahead of travel to all incoming tourists makes some sense. And a suggestion that Greek hotels might cover 50 percent of the cost of the 72-hour pre-travel Covid-19 tests for travelers who produce a negative result upon arrival, is also proactive and innovative.
However, the Greek hotelier appeal goes on to take a poke at home sharing providers such as Airbnb, for not being forced to abide by the same coronavirus regulations as hotels. Which weakens the organization’s arguments in my view. Airbnb hosts are also feeling the bite of imported COVID-19 cases. The hoteliers appear to want all “suffering” to be apportioned out, since they request that additional Covid-19 measures apply to all incoming travelers regardless of means of transport – air, sea, road.
When all is said and done, the POX appeal just seems like bad form. Greece 2020 holiday season is a stay alive effort anyhow since every good effort by Athens seems to have been thwarted by the fear and uncertainty the pandemic has caused. The bottom line is, even the safest place on the planet is not so safe in the minds of the travelers.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called for officials to not relax any health measures already taken, and to continue to strictly enforce them in order to protect both residents and travelers.