On Thursday, 23 April 2020, the COVID Coordinating Committee of FedHATTA met online with Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Development and Investments, to discuss the serious problems for the tourism industry due to COVID and to request his intervention for their effective mitigation.

The Committee reported to the Minister on the current situation of the tourist offices, which sit at the heart of the industry, connecting its various functions. The Minister was also informed about the moves made by the industry within the European Union, through ECTAA, the pan-European body of travel agencies and tour operators, in order to launch solutions commensurate with the problems and access the assistance provided at the European level for the sector.

The Committee made clear that the industry is emerging from a weak winter season, while the summer season is de facto canceled and the next winter season is likely lost as well. Realistically, tourism recovery is not expected to begin before 2021, and even then towards the autumn, since all the conditions for the safety of both travelers and destinations must first converge worldwide. This means at least 18 months without work and without income, during which the tourist offices will have to remain in operation, with all their staff present, so that they can prepare for the next day, and be ready to work intensively when it comes.

The Committee ‘s requests to the Minister can be summarized as follows:

The existing staff of tourist offices, permanent and seasonal, must be maintained to ensure an effective restart when feasible. Thus, the industry is asking for a subsidy for its employees to continue working, as long as the problem persists. This subsidy should also include employer contributions, while flexible forms of work should be seriously considered by the State.

Tourist offices employ about 30,000 people. In order to be able to continue to exist under the given conditions the companies must receive state-guaranteed financing without being hindered by specific banking criteria, and in the the amounts they require. FedHATTA can act as an intermediary, so that the relevant application of many smaller travel agencies can function as a large overall application, in order to make it easier to obtain the necessary funding.

FedHATTA intends to create a guarantee mechanism for the travel agency industry, which will cover the obligations of tour operators to consumers, according to the relevant legislation, which is currently not happening effectively in our country.

Until the creation of this guarantee mechanism, there must be a state guarantee for the specific vouchers, and then the specific mechanism must be supported.

The Minister understood the problems that were presented to him and stated that solutions are already under way, in keeping with what the representatives of the tourist offices consider fair and feasible. He promised that banks would not be a problem on sought funding, because they have received relevant instructions, while he pledged his commitment to resolving any problems that arise during the process.

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