ATHENS – With 2020 wiped out by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 only a partial recovery, Greece’s tourist sector’s hopes for a 2022 rebound will take a shot over European Union sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.
In 2019, there were some 583,000 Russian tourists who came to Greece during another record-breaking year before that was busted by COVID, although they are not in the top 10 countries for arrivals.
Still, losing them will hurt Greek hotels, bars, taverns and tourism-dependent businesses, said Germany’s state broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) in a report about how the EU ban on Russian airlines will keep out Russians.
In a televised statement, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias insisted that the conflict would have little effect on tourism and that it wouldn’t hurt that much to lose half a million visitors and the money they’d spent.
“Before 2013, we had 1.2 million travelers from Russia coming to Greece. This fell to 50 percent after the war in Crimea in 2013-2014, and has continued to decline, so this market does not account for a big part of our tourism,” he said.
But hoteliers like Konstantinos Stroutzos, the General Manager of Avra Imperial, a luxury resort near the Cretan town of Chania that if Kikilias isn’t worried that they are.
He said the war will hurt Greece, with major airlines such as Delta – which flies directly to Athens from the United States – the seventh most important market – will likely have to raise prices because of the soaring cost of fuel.
That’s directly attributable to the invasion that has spiked costs of many commodities and shortages around the world, especially for gas and fuels which could be a disincentive for travelers from other countries.
“Some markets have largely disappeared from booking data – and even our search data – and cancellations of already-booked trips have started, even though many cancellations are based on psychological fear rather than having anything to do with the actual situation,” Stroutzos told DW.
“Alongside the humanitarian catastrophe, the economic effect is already beginning to be felt across other industries and fuel costs will add further pressure on the aviation industry which is slowly recovering post-pandemic,” he told the site.
Greece also said it’s willing to take in 30,000 Ukrainian refugees – while keeping out those from other countries – and is willing to provide them with aid, including shelter – which could be in hotels empty of tourists.
The President of the Hellenic Hoteliers Federation, Grigoris Tasios, said in a TV interivew that hotel owners were prepared to help the Ukrainian people. “We are ready to host refugees from Ukraine; in addition to shelter, we will offer them the chance to work in hotel enterprises if they wish.”
Giorgios Kaloutsakis, who owns the luxury hotel Abaton Island on Crete, told DW that ourism professionals in Greece and elsewhere should be more principled over Russia’s invasion and take an every stronger stand.
“The money we spend during our holidays should not support destinations where regimes violate social and cultural norms and eventually become disruptors of world peace and stability,” Kaloutsakis also said.
“I urge that we hotel owners and people involved in tourism should all talk freely and describe the current reality at its full level without being worried if we will make guests and partners of ours unhappy.”