May 24, 2010
The problems of the Greek economy have received all the attention necessary from large German tour operators, who understand the need to dramatically increase the number of German tourists holidaying in Greece.
Despite recent acrimonious exchanges between parts of the German media and Greek politicians, German intellectuals have always admired the achievements of Greek civilisation, to the point of calling Berlin “the Athens of Germany”. Beside history and open-air museums, Greece has a lot to offer to German tourists. It has a great climate, scenic beauty and exotic food. The current fall in the value of the euro is not only helping European exports, but it makes holidaying outside the EU more expensive. If one takes into account the current problems in Thailand and elsewhere in the Islamic world, holidaying in Greece by EU members makes more sense than ever before.
This is not to say that Greek authorities and hospitality operators should not do their bit to upgrade tourist services. The sun alone will not increase tourist numbers significantly. In my experience, control of the quality of food and accommodation is next to inexistent. Hotel and restaurant staff are poorly trained, most lack solid language skills, sophistication and sometimes manners. Although Germans are not the fussiest of clients, their travel operators insist on hygiene standards and decently-cooked food.
Between 2004 and 2005, I have been teaching in Romanian colleges ( “Baiulescu”,Brasov and “M.Cantacuzino” in Sinaia) which train multilingual hospitality personnel, like cooks, receptionists, waiting and housekeeping staff. Instead of advertising in Romanian newspapers for Romanian students to come work in Greece during the summer season, serious Greek hospitality operators should contact these two colleges directly in order to find the professional staff they need. The graduates are trained for the needs of the winter tourism industry in Sinaia and Brasov, but would be free to work in Greece in the summer months. To some extent, this is slowly taking shape as we speak, but the trend should be greatly accelerated, under the tutelage of the Greek Ministry of Tourism and the Romanian authorities.
To hit it off with the locals, German operators should understand that the Greek hospitality sector is made up of thousands of SMEs, quite hostile to Turkish-style “all-inclusive” packages. If German guides could also convince their customers to leave the traditional one-euro tip now and again for the poorly-paid waiting staff, things could only improve…