Greek hoteliers are looking at proactive plans for booking rooms in order to create a natural social-distancing atmosphere. As Greek authorities begin lifting coronavirus restrictions leading into the summer, many hotels are considering taking restructuring the guest experience to ensure the safety and peace of mind of their guests.
Starting June 1st, year-round hotels in Greece will reopen to local guests, with the hope of rescuing the 2020 tourism season. Experts have predicted that the whole season may be lost if the full resumption of international air traffic does not resume. In addition, the economic shortfalls and their effects on travel have not even started, so there is even greater uncertainty as to whether people will risk flying for trips abroad at all.
For hoteliers, especially the big resorts, the question of whether or not opening this year is even feasible is the rub. Fewer guests in a market where prices have already been cut to the bone by TUI and other corporate booking partners just leaves little room for maneuvering. Some are giving a lot of thought to flexibility in an industry where static stability is desired.
Some Greek hotel operators are mulling the idea of opening their properties at a maximum capacity rate of 50 percent, with staggered dining times at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. According to the reports, Greek hoteliers are considering these extreme measures in lieu of remaining closed. The “new normal” could mean guests can also wave goodbye to buffets, with many resorts looking at ending the shared dining option altogether.
Ekathimerini reports hotels planning to offer “secluded holidays,” which for the Crete island market, would be a perfect balancing effort to offset the value proposition of the past decade. Too many tour operators have sold Crete and Greece short in their corporate effort to pit the country against cheap destinations like Turkey and Egypt. On Crete, in particular, there’s a huge experiential tourism possibility that has gone virtually unnoticed.
The reports talk about a kind of “holidays in quarantine” where hotel guests are isolated from staff and fellow holidaymakers. Fears of liability over potential property epidemics weigh heavily on owners, as much as lost revenue from not opening do. Brands do not want to be associated with the COVID nightmare, at least not negatively.
The good news for some resort owners, is mid-summer bookings are still in the 50-60 percent range. In other words, vacationers have not yet begun to cancel reservations for their summer vacations in Greece. With these kinds of numbers, some resorts will just need to modify the guest experience to meet and exceed government-sanctioned standards. Still, the pandemic has wreaked havoc in the sense that “normal” operations are out of the question.
Here on Crete, hoteliers I speak with are being cautious in anticipation of Athens authorities and the regulations announcements on occupancy, bookings, flights, health issues, and so on. With hundreds, sometimes thousands of employees waiting to learn if they will, or won’t start back to work, hotel owners are in an unenviable position. Some we talk with, have a lot more flexibility than others. This is especially true of medium-sized self-catered operations, apartment hotels, and so forth. Emily McNutt on The Points Guy UK points out
“Like with most things about the coronavirus, information is changing every day. So planning for a summer Greek holiday is all but certain, as what we know now may be different from what we know by next week.”
The government restrictions about to be announced will be key for Greek hoteliers and vacationers. Greece has not yet opened its borders for tourism, but Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis discussed recently the best-case scenarios. Airlines are able and willing to begin ferrying passengers, but until restrictions are lifted, and the market is there, only smaller entities can operate so dynamically. We announced this week, Wizz Air ready to launch flights as soon as the time is right.