Retsos: Even more than that. We expect this number by 2021 to reach 54 billion Euros and create 300,000 more jobs, which will be huge. The biggest problem we had in the tourism sector, which is already mentioned as a country problem, is that we never had a strategy; we never had a clear brand about our country. In the perception of the potential visitor, Greece was, and still is only, sun and sea. So there was only one product. This product was offered to the tour operators. And they were selling most of the time unbranded.
If a similar “Sun and Sea-Product” was offered by Turkey or by Cyprus but cheaper, then the traveller would rather go there. However, we know that we have many different kinds of products: Sport, adventure tourism, religious tourism, cruise, conventions etc. Our current goals as an industry is to identify these products, give them their identity and then show them abroad in order to sell them. To do so we are trying to cooperate with our public sector, which is represented by the Ministry of Tourism and the national tourism organisation.
The public sector loves the tourism administration - At this moment, is it simply being restructured or is it really improving?
Retsos: Well. (Laughter). It is very easy to talk against the public sector. Everybody, if you ask any Greek, would speak negatively about the public sector. We know that it is very difficult to change something that for many years was built very solidly, but in a wrong way. We see in some aspects that the public sector is trying to change, but it will take many years and a lot of effort. It will also take a lot of willingness from the government.
And it is not getting worse.
Retsos: It cannot get worse. It reached a point that it cannot get worse. But the change in process will be very painful, and it will take a lot of time. We as a private sector are trying to help this process by assuming responsibilities and duties, for example we recently formed a company, which is alive since March under the name “Marketing Greece”, a 100% privately owned company. It is actually the first company like this in the whole world. We have a mutual agreement with the Ministry, and the memorandum of understanding, but we have no relationship in terms of funding or in terms of obligation towards the Ministry.
What this company now tries to do is to create the new brand of the country and its sub-brands, create the marketing strategy in order to show these products abroad and to promote these products abroad. Then the Ministry will step in to advertise them and sell them. We don’t want to get involved in advertising. Now I am very positive about it. I saw how it works during these last four months and the amount of work that has already been done. It is enormous. For decades now we haven’t seen anything in this matter, and now in four months a whole new world is revealing itself in front of us.
Would this have been possible without the crisis?