The national strategy for tourism 365 days a year in Greece, which as Minister of Tourism I designed and implemented in the period 2015 – 2019, led to the highest performance in the history of Greek tourism.
Although we faced multiple, serious crises (the economic suffocation of the Memoranda, the capital controls, the risk of Grexit and the peak of the Refugee-Immigrant situation), we managed to make Greece one of the five most attractive global destinations, which contributed decisively to in the current crisis of the pandemic to have been less affected than other countries.
The huge economic tourism development we brought to the country, increasing 40% international arrivals and over 35% tourist revenue in the period 2015 – 2019, strengthened our national economy, became the solution to unemployment, creating tens of thousands of new jobs, and brought an investment boom, mobilizing more than 400 investment projects in tourism.
We lengthened the summer tourist season, boosted winter tourism and year-round thematic experiences and put new Greek destinations on the travel map. Thanks to the close cooperation of the public and private sectors, the level of tourism services has improved, with the result that many young people, who saw a future and perspective in tourism, chose to follow professions in the sector.
But the pandemic came and overturned this positive dynamic. This year we are actually seeing the real impact on the labour market.
Due to the restrictive measures, closed markets and businesses and insufficient support measures from the government, many workers in aviation, tourism and catering found themselves unemployed, either because they were fired or because they were suspended. Many were forced in the interim to seek employment in other industries and professions, in order to survive and obtain a steady income.
Today, tourism activity is gradually recovering, with a horizon of full recovery in 2025 in Europe, but the same is not the case with workers in tourism, catering and transport. In recent weeks, images of chaos have unfolded at European airports, due to a dramatic shortage of air and ground staff, resulting in significant flight delays and cancellations, before we have even reached the peak of the tourist season.
There is a huge shortage in tourism and catering businesses across Europe. Already in Greece, since the beginning of the tourist season, we have faced the urgent issue of 50,000 vacant jobs in the hospitality industry. This is because most workers will hardly decide to return, especially to seasonal jobs, with low wages and grueling hours, when in the meantime they have found work in other industries, with stable year-round income and the prospect of advancement.
At the European level, as the coordinator of my political group in the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN), I submitted specific proposals, which were adopted in May in the European Parliament resolution on “the impact of the Russian illegal military aggression against Ukraine, in the transport and tourism of the EU”. With the resolution, we asked for an action plan to be created to support the tourism industry, which would include, in addition to sufficient European resources, the creation of a special temporary EU funding program to address the lack of personnel in tourism. In Greece, as a country with a long tourism tradition and global reputation, a strong political will is needed for the government to address this urgent issue of labor relations in tourism, especially in today’s conditions, where the energy crisis and inflation – at levels above 10% – compressing incomes and effectively distributing which wage increases in the sector, based on the sectoral agreements. The government needs to draw up a comprehensive plan to support work and industrial relations in all sectors, so that businesses already under pressure from increased operating costs, invest in human capital and ensure that workers have satisfactory wages and decent working conditions.
Employees are the soul of Greek hospitality, they are the best face of Greek tourism and they must be supported significantly, because they contribute decisively so that Greece continues in the coming years to generate strong national economic benefits from tourism.