Tourism in Greece for summer 2022 is threatened by staff shortages and spiraling energy costs, officials have warned.
Tourism is Greece’s key industry providing a quarter of Greece’s national income. A record number of tourists are expected this year following the lifting of all coronavirus-related restrictions.
Staff shortage of 50,000 in tourism
However, Andreas Andreadis, honorary chairman of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), has warned Greece’s tourism industry is currently short of over 50,000 mainly kitchen and service staff.
“Our quality tourism is in danger,” he tweeted in April.
Πράγματι υπάρχει τεράστια έλλειψη προσφοράς εργασίας με αμοιβές σημαντικά πάνω από τις κλαδικές συμβάσεις. Τα μεγαλύτερα προβλήματα εντοπίζονται στον επισιτισμό (κουζίνα & service) με ακάλυπτες πάνω από 50.000 θέσεις. Απαιτούνται λύσεις τώρα, ο ποιοτικός τουρισμός μας κινδυνεύει! https://t.co/FRznyMWeIn
— Andreas Andreadis (@AAAndreadis) April 17, 2022
The shortage of staff is surprising in a country that has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. According to the latest statistics from the month of February, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Greece stands at 12.8 percent. The jobless rate among people aged between 15 and 24 is 31.1 percent.
Reasons for a shortage of staff in Greece?
Hotel owners across the country face acute shortages after two years of pandemic restrictions that have seen droves of hospitality workers seek work elsewhere.
However, as Giorgos Hotzoglou, the President of the Workers Federation on Tourism and Hospitality said, the vacancies are expected because working conditions and pay in the tourism sector are particularly bad.
“Employers differ from business to business. But, not all of them offer adequate wages for the seasonal worker to decide to go to an island for work,” Hotzoglou said speaking to ThessNews.
“Tourism companies [that] advertise for summer staff in Mykonos, Santorini or Paros, are offering a salary of 700 euros ($736) plus accommodation and food for seven days of work, up to 12 hours a day,” Hotzoglou said.
He added that “These salaries are not representative of such working conditions and employees are justifiably turning down the job offers.”
Hotzoglou also noted that another factor that created the staff shortage in the Greek tourism industry is that the government is “dragging its feet” over extending unemployment benefits to the workers during the winter months.
As a result, he said, many workers sought work abroad while others turned to other industries.
Last month, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias suggested some of these vacancies could be filled from among the over 22,000 refugees from Ukraine who have fled to Greece since Russia’s invasion in February.
Greece is issuing temporary residence permits to Ukrainian refugees who will be able to reside and work in the country for one year.
Spiraling energy costs hit tourism in Greece
Inflation in Greece, driven by the energy price spike, is around eight percent, according to EU data agency Eurostat.
As energy and food costs are up, hoteliers say they are struggling to survive.
The president of the Panhellenic Hoteliers Federation, Grigoris Tassios, told the Athens-Macedonia News Agency that the operating costs are 25 percent to 30 percent higher compared to 2021, mainly due to higher energy bills.
He said that most hotels have signed contracts with tour operators reflecting 2019 costs. These contacts, he explains, are signed at least a year before the tourist season begins.
However, he stressed that hotels in Greece will not raise their prices at least until 2023. He notes that transport costs are likely to increase, estimating that an air ticket will increase between 50 and 100 euros due to the fuel price rise.
The president of the Institute for Tourism Research and Forecasting, Konstantina Svinou, says that hotels that are open throughout the year are particularly affected. She says that a hotel in Athens with low occupancy rates spends 70 percent of its turnover on energy costs.
“Under these conditions, the hotel is not viable,” she notes.