Our two correspondents from Greece, Marilena Kouidou of COTECO and Nick Paputselos of European Watercare give us the latest on the hospitality industries efforts. As preparations for the gradual opening of the hospitality sector as Greece kickstarting 2020 tourist season.
After two months of complete lockdown, the Greek government has finally decided that as the health status of the country is satisfactory, the hospitality sector can gradually start functioning. Fortunately, due to the quick and effective handling of the situation by the Government the country had just 2,876 COVID-19 cases and a total of 171 deaths. The hospitality sector was one of the first to enter lockdown on the 13th March 2020 after the threat of the rising figures of COVID-19 cases. Finally, after two months and 12 days cafes, restaurants and bars started opening from the 25th of May. After this long period of pause for the hospitality economy, everyone is worried relating to the financial repercussions of the lockdown.
There do however seem to be indications of the market returning to a new form of business as usual with many cafes, and beach bars setting up with the intention of opening for a delayed tourist season that kick started on June 1st and will be staggered through to “fully open” by July 1st. It was also announced on Monday (25th May) that there is to be a reduction of VAT on coffee from 24% to 13% through to October 2020.
As well, rent reduction for the businesses by 40%, tax relief for the businesses for the tax revenue of 2019 and the possibility of altering full time employment to part time, where 60% of loss of wages will be funded by SURE European Union funding project, finally low interest rate loans secured by the European Investment fund to help Greek companies access finance more easily.
Adapting for Business
Business will adapt, as we witnessed during the lockdown. The Greeks learnt to drink good coffee at home, helped by e-shop sales of coffee from a wide range of hospitality industries to their door, and subsequent “take out only” policy adopted by many businesses.
On the hygiene side, the government has issued directives for obligatory use of gloves and masks for all employees. Continuous washing of hands and use of sanitisers, contactless payments, use of plexiglass at tills, distancing between customers in queues etc. Cafes, restaurants and bars will be able to use mainly their outdoor sitting areas and tables should be placed at a distance of at least one metre between them. Wwith a maximum of one client every two square meters and six persons on each table. Menus and tablecloths are advised to be of single use, otherwise should be washed or sanitised after each use.
Social distancing will remain for the foreseeable future. This is being maintained by outlets offering take out services, with space being made available and repurposed to support business and further increase seating capacity. This too is also helped by the outside living culture and great weather Greece has at this time of year, making it far easier to achieve. There are however still many outlets that will struggle to adapt and return a profit. A number of these businesses have already taken the decision to remain closed for this year’s summer tourist season.
Greece has many more coffee shops for the country’s population and is regarded as a one of the countries with the highest coffee consumption per capita since the average consumer drinks 3 to 5 coffees a day.
The market is very sceptical as to whether the above measures are enough for a sector which seems to be facing huge liquidity problems. We must wait and see?
Tourism accounts for almost one-fifth of the Greek economy, and reopening the industry is vital to the country’s recovery. According to the Tourism Ministry, 350,000 jobs depend directly on tourism, as many as double that number indirectly.
In terms of perception from an international view, the decision taken by the Greek Government helped the country avoid many cases of Covid-19 and therefore could be a potentially a safer first choice for visitors in 2020.
Since reopening on May 25, following the nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, restaurants and bars in Greece have reported enormous drops in revenue during their first week in business.
The intake of restaurants has dropped 80 percent, and fell 60 percent in bars. Although constant rain this past week might also account for low numbers of customers, according to industry sources.
However, Nick & Marilena are optimistic by these early indications and the understanding that coffee, going out, and socialising will continue to be core to Greek culture. Business will therefore be supported by their loyal customers throughout the coming months ahead.