Greece is one of the top tourism destinations in the world. The number of tourism visits over the last decade has shown a steady increase. From 14.2 million international visitors in 2004, more than 17 million people visited Greece in 2008, and it is expected that in a few years this number will reach 20 million, almost twice the country’s population.
TOURISM IN GREECE
A Global Brand, A Timeless Destination
Greece is one of the top tourism destinations in the world. In fact Lonely Planet placed Greece among its top 10 destinations for 2010 and Greece ranks second in England’s 2008 Telegraph Travel Awards in their Best European Country ranking.
The number of tourism visits over the last decade has shown a steady increase. From 14.2 million international visitors in 2004, more than 17 million people visited Greece in 2008, and it is expected that in a few years this number will reach 20 million, almost twice the country’s population.
A New Tourism Investment Era
The increasing number of tourists and the evolving profile of today’s traveler demand a host of new tourism offerings and infrastructure projects.
In Greece, investors will find a wide spectrum of opportunities, a welcome environment for new investment, and some of the most beautiful locations in the world.
A Unique Landscape
Greece has more than 15,000 kilometres of coastline, 190,000 beaches, and 6,000 islands and islets. In addition, visitors are discovering the diverse selection of sailing and cruising options, incentive travel, and weekend breaks, opening up new opportunities in niche and attractive markets.
Pristine beaches, iconic mountains, a wealth of history, timeless traditions, spectacular landscapes, and renowned hospitality draw visitors from around the world to the land where democracy was born and dreams are fulfilled.
Greece’s Mediterranean climate is ideal for year-round tourism and one of the core priorities of Greece today is to create a dynamic, sustainable, four-season tourism infrastructure that responds to the diverse and challenging needs of the 21st Century.
According to the 2009 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum, Greece holds the 24th overall position among 133 countries, 3rd place in the prioritization of travel & tourism subindex, 9th place in the number of World Heritage cultural sites, 5th place in tourism infrastructure and 1st place in the physician density subindex.
A Core Economic Sector
Tourism accounts for 18% of Greece’s GDP, directly or indirectly employs more than 900.000 people, and is the leading source of the country’s invisible receipts (36% in 2007).
Currently, more than 9,000 hotels operate in Greece. Due to Greece’s many islands and islets, more than 6,000, the geographical range of tourism destinations is extensive. In addition, the wide variety of natural landscapes, extensive number of historic sites and villages, and wide-ranging number of activities mean that opportunities are virtually limitless.
Approximately 85% of arrivals originate in Western Europe: 21.2% from the United Kingdom, 17.5% from Germany, 8.8% from Italy, 5.3% from France, 5.2% from Holland, and 7.5% from the Scandinavian countries.
Increasingly, however, significant numbers of visitors from Eastern Europe and China are making Greece their preferred destination, creating a wider base of origin countries and new demands for services, facilities, and attractions.
Source: Greek National Tourism Organization and National Statistical Services of Greece
Although the country’s tourism infrastructure is well developed, Greece is committed to expanding its tourism offerings and establishing itself as a 12-month destination. Its Mediterranean climate is ideal for activities such as year round golf and trekking and it is estimated that one million Europeans would consider Greece as a second home destination.
At present, 70% of arrivals are in the May-October period and visits are disproportionately concentrated in Crete (21% of total bed capacity) the Dodecanese islands, which includes Rhodes (17%), the Ionian Islands, which includes Corfu (12%), Attica, which includes Athens (9%), the peninsula of Halkidiki (6.5%), and the Cyclades islands, which includes Santorini and Mykonos (6%).
Among the targeted sectors for expansion include the development of integrated resorts and residential real estate, golf courses and sports tourism, wellness and health tourism, upgraded and new marinas, conference centers, agrotourism products, religious tourism, thermal spas and thalassotherapy centers, gastrotourism, and a wide range of thematic offerings related to Greece’s rich cultural and historical heritage.
Historically, hotels in Greece have been small in size, with the average number of beds per hotel standing at 76. Larger hotel units with more diverse offerings will be a welcome addition to the current accommodation infrastructure.
A Legendary Opportunity
Most of the hotels in Greece are categorized as 1- and 2-starhotels, meaning there is plenty of room for investors to establish 4-and 5-star properties. And, according to the Greek Hotel Branding Report, branded hotels in Greece account for 4% of the total number of hotels and 19% of total availability of rooms, while in other European countries this figure lies between 25 and 40%.
Hotel chains that operate as franchisors will discover attractive opportunities to establish a network of two-, three-, or four-star hotels in Greece.
Breakdown of hotels by star rating at key tourist destinations
Source: National Statistical Service
Dual Opportunity: Both small and large operators exist side by side within Greece’s diverse tourism market.
Following its successful staging of the 2004 Olympic Games, Greece became the focal point of the tourism market and realized a huge jump in tourist arrivals. The Games have also proved to be a positive catalyst for widespread infrastructure development.
The Athens International Airport is recognized as one of the best in the world. It was the only European airport in 2009 with an increased number of frequencies; its airline marketing programs having brought 12 new airlines to Athens in 2009.
Airports throughout Greece, now numbering 40, of which 15 are international, are being upgraded to handle increased arrivals and charter flights. In addition, former military airports are being transformed for civilian use, enhancing the travel experience for many visitors.
The national highway system connects north and south, east and west in a seamless and well-designed network. The newly completed Egnatia Highway, connecting Igoumenitsia with the Turkish border, is one of the most ambitious transport projects in the European Union of the last decade. The Ionian Highway, which connects Patras with Igoumenitsa, complements to the system’s upgrading.
Close to the capital, the Attika Highway Ring Road has changed road transport within the greater Athens area and is an important logistics route, connecting the airport with logistics centres, sea ports, and rail stations. In fact, highway entries to Greece increased substantially in 2008, demonstrating the dynamism of the emerging markets of Southeast Europe.
The relatively new Athens Metro system, the first in the country, has been extremely successful and has had a major impact on improving urban transport. The Athens Metro is expanding its lines and operating hours to meet increased demand from passengers. A new metro system is being constructed in Thessaloniki that is scheduled to begin operation in 2012.
Greece’s advanced high-speed ferry system, transporting passengers and goods to hundreds of islands, is complemented by comprehensive air service. Also, a new seaplane service recently began in Greece is a valuable addition for the tourism industry.
Investment Incentives Law
The New Investment Law for supporting Private Investment for Economic Growth, Entrepreneurship, and Regional Cohesion, was voted on and passed by the Greek Parliament and is to be implemented following the relevant Presidential Decrees and Ministerial Decisions..
Greece’s newly implemented PPP (Public Private Partnership) scheme provides significant opportunities to investors to participate in new infrastructure projects, including marinas and thermal springs.
The National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) for the years 2007-2013 establishes the broad priorities for EU Structural Funds Programmes in Greece.
Greece’s NSRF seeks to achieve a balanced development of the country, with 82 percent of its budget focusing on regional projects. With a total budget of almost 40 billion Euro, NSRF will advance projects directly and indirectly related to tourism development and will provide investors with ample opportunities to participate in a wide number of projects.
For tourism, NSRF provides significant financial support, with a budget of more than 500 million Euro until 2013. A core NSRF objective is to increase demand and upgrade the quality of the tourist product and tourist services at all levels. NSRF support focuses on:
– prolonging the tourist period throughout Greece, and reducing seasonality
– promoting the country’s international appeal as a safe and attractive tourist destination
– Increasing the number of foreign visitors
– Reinforcing domestic tourism.
Investment in the tourism sector will include the upgrade of marinas, the promotion of special forms of tourism, the creation of cultural pathways, the upgrade of winter tourism infrastructure, and the subsidizing of private investments, according to the new Incentives Law that will be launched during 2011. It is estimated that a total of 95,000 beds will also be upgraded in the tourism sector in order to provide services of a higher quality and extend the tourist season beyond the summer months by encouraging new forms of tourism.
Inherent in Greece’s tourism development policy is the issue of sustainability. Many hotels and resort complexes are installing photovoltaic systems in an effort to become more carbon neutral. The need for new and efficient building solutions, desalination plants, energy efficient power supplies, closed loop resource systems, and software monitoring systems are just some of the areas in which Greece’s tourism sector will take advantage of new technologies for years to come.
Also, Greece is promoting its unique ecosystems and nature reserves, many listed under the Ramsar Treaty. These are exceptional destinations where visitors may enjoy some of the most diverse flora and fauna in Europe. From bird watching to mountain hiking, activities that can be combined with distinctive lodging and singular experiences are highly popular for today’s traveler that is seeking out-of-the-ordinary experiences.
Because Greece, a country of 11 million inhabitants, hosts more than 17 million visitors, education and training in tourism services is paramount. The workforce is multilingual, well versed in the tourism sector, and willing to respond to new challenges. From management to catering, human resources for tourism enterprises is a Greek strength.
Ministry of Culture and Tourism
Reflecting the importance of tourism to the Greek economy, a ministry dedicated to formulating and overseeing tourism policy is a core component of the Greek government. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism coordinates a wide number of diverse policies and developments with other ministries so that Greece’s tourism sector remains strong, vibrant, and responsive.
Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO)
The Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), under the direction of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, is responsible for promoting tourism in Greece and oversees a number of organisations related to tourism education, development, and real estate.
A Global Brand, Global Marketing Support
Greece as a tourism destination enjoys an extensive, multilingual, global marketing campaign in all media. In addition, Greece is fully represented at all key tourism trade shows and is promoted by major travel and tour operators worldwide.
INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES – IN BRIEF
Conference and Congress Centres
Greece’s unique combination of geographical accessibility, spectacular locations, and multiple attractions makes it an ideal conference and congress destination. Currently, According to the International Congress and Convention Association rankings, Athens was listed in15th position in 2008, ten places higher than in 2007.
The potential for golf to grow significantly in Greece is well documented. The current number of 18-hole courses is five, compared with 250 in Spain and more than 50 in Portugal.
Spas and Thalassotherapy Centres
Greece boasts more than 700 thermal springs, many of therapeutic value. The potential to develop wellness centres, spas, and integrated treatment facilities is significant.
With more than 6,000 islands and islets, and 15,000 kilometres of coastline, Greece is a natural destination for sailors. Greece’s need for new and upgraded marinas is an appealing opportunity for investment.
Investors who respond to the growing demand for unique, integrated lifestyle resorts will find a welcoming environment and numerous opportunities. The potential for growth is significant and the locations are spectacular.
Greece’s abundant natural resources, historical wealth, and traditional heritage provide a basis for a wide spectrum of alternative tourism options, including wellness and medical tourism, theme parks, sports tourism, religious tourism, adventure travel, archaeological tourism, wine and gastronomy tourism–the list is extensive. Incentives are highly attractive and the potential for growth is considerable.
Greece is home to a wide variety of Europe’s flora and fauna, unique eco-systems, protected wildlife areas, spectacular mountains, nature reserves, one-of-a-kind forests and marine parks. In addition, historic villages, mountain retreats, rich agricultural variety, and gastronomic tradition are an ideal combination for a wide variety of EcoTourism offerings.
The corporate tax rate in Greece is 25%, and licensing procedures for tourism investments have been revised and simplified. Highly attractive real estate parcels many belonging to the State and slated for development, are available and tourism clusters are evolving as new areas of attraction develop.
A New Investment Panorama
Investment professionals at Enterprise Greece are ready, willing, and able to assist you in your investment plans for tourism development, one of the most promising areas of long-term growth in the entire Mediterranean region.
New, comprehensive legislation is under consultation governing the construction of holiday homes, a market with significant potential. Experts estimate that more than 1 million Europeans would consider a second/holiday home in Greece. A wide variety of large, attractive, suitable plots of land are available for development throughout most of the country.
The Greek State is actively promoting government real estate assets, including Xenia Hotels, holdings managed by the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation (HPREC), as well as marinas that need to be upgraded. This real estate will be offered to investors through open international tenders.
“I think that [Costa Navarino] is the most important golf development in continental Europe since Sotogrande 46 years ago. People are going to be absolutely shocked when they see what has been built there, because it is so good that it will reinvigorate the golf map in the Mediterranean area.”
The Stripe Group
“We are delighted to bring our Starwood brands to Greece, a premiere location and a vital European destination.”
President of Europe, Africa and Middle East Division
Starwood Hotels & Resorts
“Why did I invest in Greece, because I love Greece, it will be the most important market for golf tourism in the Mediterranean area in the next 10 years. Our project includes two 18 hole golf courses, a 5 star luxury hotel, bungalows, a conference centre, health spa and marina.”
Johann P. Bachmann
SWISS GOLF INVEST AG
“For tourism, quite frankly, Greece has everything. The Greek people are the most hospitable in Europe, the food is great, and Crete has the longest European summer. And because Greece is the foundation of Western Civilization, we are innately tied to its culture”
“Crete, is blessed with stunning landscapes, unique environment and natural beauty, hospitable people and rich history, mythology and culture. These are excellent ingredients for developing quality tourism with upscale resorts of unique character that could help Crete to stand out and be placed on the top of the list of quality tourist destinations in the world attracting high income level clientele from around the globe. With the above in mind, Emerald has secured, on the south coast of Crete, a charismatic piece of land – 160 hectares – on one of the best beaches of Greece, where is planning and integrated quality resort of exemplary high standards. With an investment of over 310 million EURO, the resort will consist of two 5 star luxury hotels, two spa facilities, a conference centre, an athletic centre, a village hub, etc and substantial luxury real estate.”
EMERALD DEVELOPMENTS SA
AND THE PHOTOS PHOTIADES
GROUP OF COMPANIES
Aquis Resorts and Hotels has acquired an iconic hotel on Corfu island, Corfu Palace, its 6th hotel on Corfu.
Following Aquis’ acquisition of four hotels in 2009, its marketing manager Rania Deimezi said: “We’re very excited about the new additions to our portfolio. In comparison with the western Mediterranean, which already has developed hotel chains, hotel groups and franchise brands opportunities in the last decade, the eastern Mediterranean has been left behind in comparison, this is why we launched Aquis Hotels and Resorts.”
Hilton Worldwide announced the operation of a Doubletree by Hilton Resort on the island of Kos in Greece.
Patrick Fitzgibbon, Hilton Worldwide’s senior vice president, development – Europe & Africa, said:“The country has a strong tourism infrastructure. With the hotel market in Greece dominated by independently run hotels and domestic chains, we believe there are wonderful growth opportunities for all our brands throughout the country.”
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. will launch its first Sheraton hotel in Greece with the inauguration of a Sheraton Rhodes Resort in the spring. It will be Starwood’s eighth hotel in Greece. The Sheraton Rhodes Resort will be located only a few kilometres from the city’s historic old quarter district and features 401 rooms.
“Rhodes is a magical destination and we are thrilled to bring Sheraton, our most emblematic chain, to this significant travel destination,” Roeland Vos, the president of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Europe, Africa and Middle East.