‘Expanding the tourism season is a government priority' Q&A with Enterprise Greece CEO

Marinos Giannopoulos was appointed CEO of Enterprise Greece in 2022 after over a decade in the banking industry, both in Greece and abroad. He shares his vision on how Greece’s economic resilience, strength infrastructure, and focus on extending the tourism season offer strong growth opportunities.

Hospitality Insights: How does the current macro-economic environment affect investment in hospitality in Greece?

Marinos Giannopoulos: Greece’s economy has shown remarkable resilience these past few years and is one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. Last year the economy grew 8.3% and this year it is forecast to expand by more than 5%, driven, in part, by Greece’s booming tourism sector. 

Despite the economic challenges the world faces, Greece is seeing soaring foreign direct investment. According to the Bank of Greece, FDI for the first half of 2022 has already reached €4.3 billion, compared with €2.7 billion for the same period last year, which was itself a record year.

The hospitality industry in particular has continued to attract considerable international investment, even during the pandemic, attesting to investor confidence in the long term prospects for the Greek tourism brand. Last year, for example, FDI inflows into hospitality and real estate accounted for 42% of total net FDI.

So far 2022 is set to be a landmark year for Greek hospitality, with numerous acquisitions, upgrade projects and new entries underway. Just a few days ago, another mega investment deal in Greek tourism was announced. The global institutional investor GIC became the principal shareholder of Sani/Ikos Hotel Group. For this transaction the value of Sani/Ikos reached the amount of 2,3 bil. Euro.

Hospitality Insights: Greece’s tourism market has had a successful year, how do you see it continuing into 2023?

Giannopoulos: Following two years of lockdowns, Greek tourism is witnessing a robust comeback and could set a new record this year that may surpass pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, the year before the pandemic, Greece welcomed a record 33 million visitors and collected a record €18 billion in revenue. Industry leaders estimate that this year’s tourism revenues could reach €20 billion.

Greece’s tourism sector is also benefitting from several longer-term structural trends. For one, Greece has been working to extend the tourist season and turn the country into a year-round destination. This year, for example, international direct flights to Greece began in March, two months earlier than usual, while cruise ship arrivals also started earlier and have now reached 10 month operations.

At the same time, investment activity in Greek hospitality has been particularly focused on the higher end of the market. Since 2019, some 150 new hotels – most in the 4- and 5-star category − have opened their doors around the country and Greece is increasingly attracting more well-heeled visitors.

All this points to a strong outlook for the years ahead, while expectations indicate 2023 to be a record year both in visitor numbers and investments.

Hospitality Insights: In a bid to expand the season, resort operators and investors are looking into different segments such as senior living, medical tourism, or wellness: do you see this is a big opportunity for Greece, and how are you supporting it?

Giannopoulos: Greece has a lot to offer in the fields of health, wellness and the Silver Economy.

Apart from the mild, sunny climate and great quality of life the country offers, there is also a well-developed hospitality and transportation infrastructure for visitors that is being continuously upgraded.

Greece already has a reputation for wellness: from the Mediterranean diet to natural spas, from clean air and water, to a healthy lifestyle that has contributed to the famed longevity of the Greeks. Additionally, Greece has one of the highest ratio of doctors in Europe and an excellent private health care system, which has already attracted investors from abroad.

Expanding the tourist season and making full use of the existing infrastructure is a government priority. We also see Greece as a destination for both the young and the old to live and work and this is why, operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we support and communicate the country’s competitive advantages making Greece a unique location to work and live.

In the last year and-a-half, for example, Greece has rolled out a series of tax incentives to attract High Net Worth Individuals and retirees, while a special visa was also introduced for digital nomads to come stay in Greece. Our Golden Visa program also continues to be one of the most successful programs in Europe.

Hospitality Insights: As the recently appointed CEO of Enterprise Greece, how do you see the role of governmental organizations evolving in their support of the market?

Giannopoulos: Enterprise Greece plays a substantial role in supporting investors through its integrated services such as B2B meetings and business missions to facilitate cooperation of Greek and foreign companies. As the newly appointed CEO, I am determined to continue supporting entrepreneurship in the tourism and real estate sectors, to reward hard work with a clear vision and responsibility, introduce initiatives that will support the Greek and foreign business communities, and showcase the advantages of investing in the Greek tourism sector. 

All governmental bodies involved in the hospitality sector and tourism in general are committed to providing the best of services in the most efficient way. International investors around the world recognize that Greece today offers enormous prospects for forward-looking businesses and that the country is dealing effectively with the challenges of the current environment. As a result, we have seen new brands entering the market and brands already established in Greece expanding their footprint with new developments.

Hospitality Insights: Like many Southern European countries, Greece has been affected by heatwaves and forest fires: is the climate emergency a concern for tourism, and how are you helping the industry to manage the challenges?

Giannopoulos: Tourism is obviously vulnerable to climate change: both on the demand side and the supply side. The increasing incidence of extreme weather conditions will affect how people travel and how businesses invest.

We believe that sustainable tourism is key to our future and Greece is deeply committed to preserving and protecting its environment. Ultimately, the country’s natural beauty and Mediterranean climate are our greatest natural resources.

That is why Greece is at the forefront of efforts to tackle climate change as well as protect the environment. The country has adopted one of the first and more progressive climate laws in Europe, is welcoming record investment in renewable energy, experimenting with new forms of e-mobility, and making sustainable development the linchpin of its national tourism strategy. Green incentives are provided through the RRF (Recovery and Resilience Facility) which, together with the favorable environment for strategic investments through the fast track law, give to the country the sustainable investments needed.

Hospitality Insights: What are your looking forward to with regards to your participation to R&R?

Giannopoulos: Enterprise Greece is a regular participant in high value, impactful events like R&R. We are excited about reconnecting with our peers and partners, getting deals moving in the sector, and hearing from leaders in the hospitality sector about the outlook for the industry.

We are also excited to participate in the panel: Eastern Mediterranean: The Next Growth Opportunities in Diversifying Markets, which takes place on October 18th. This will give us the opportunity to highlight Greece’s latest developments and prospects and to explore ventures in different sectors of hospitality. Please join us.

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