#Voices of Travel: Georgia from Greece talks of losing the tourist season yet being hopeful of a brighter future

In this ongoing series, we explore how humans of travel are mitigating the ongoing COVID19 outbreak. Today Georgia Christodoulou, Apollo Resort Art Hotel, Greece shares her story. 

I am a third generation hotelier in Kyparissia (Messinia- Peloponnese in Greece).

I manage two small hotels, Apollo Resort Art Hotel and Vassilikon Hotel in Kyparissia. The first one is a 4 stars hotel with a great reputation and the last one a 2 stars hotel. Our financial state at the beginning of 2020 had allowed us to make plans for total renovation and upgrade of Vasilikon Hotel which is one of the first hotels in town and complete the last renovation in our 4 stars hotel, which has to do with environmental purpose. The year had begun with the most optimistic predictions until COVID-19 came.

Well, when I heard that the Coronavirus affected China I was totally sure that it would affect Europe very soon and especially Milan in Italy! I was planning to travel to Milan (like I do every year) and I cancelled, as I know that hundreds of Chinese tourists visit Milan. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine that it would so quickly take the dimensions of a global pandemic. Perhaps it would not be unreasonable to talk about a third world war.

When the first cancellations started, the truth is that I was shocked. Following which I tried to put myself in my clients’ position, to find out their feelings and worries. Then I, as a hotelier, started to send e-mails to the clients saying that if they want they could cancel without fees because of the circumstances. I assured them that the most important thing in this period is our health and that we have to stay safe, to stay at home today so we can travel tomorrow. I assured them in addition to that when the time is right, we’ll be there for you. The unexpected answer to all of them after their gratitude was that they will visit us for sure as soon as possible. So, I’m convinced now that it would be strategically wrong to ask tourists at this time to change dates on bookings. Who could be sure if they will be alive, what the new dates will be for them to travel, if they have the money, etc.?

I think that the Greek Government took very quick, drastic measures such as the closing of schools, the businesses and curfew. Until today, Greece recorded pan-European the lowest number of deaths in the population and this gives us strength and hope.

We were preparing to begin the new season (as we work seasonally) so we hadn’t hired anybody. We spoke with them and we asked them to have patience, be careful and take necessary safety precautions. We are a great team, so they understood quickly. The Greek Government came to help all, providing concerned employees subsidies and concerned us- the entrepreneurs recording facilities in the financial sector.

I think unfortunately the tourist season for us, in the global tourism industry is lost. I believe the economic and humanitarian crisis that will follow the health crisis will plague us for too long and for at least a year. But I want to be optimistic, I have to. Moreover, every crisis has a chance to hide. Crisis automatically becomes the reason that motivates you to make decisions and reform yourself first and then your business. So it’s time to re-evaluate our goals and objectives into more functional and efficient shapes. Perhaps innovation is waiting for us.

In any case, #peoplefirst! We will stand on our feet even stronger than before.