COVID-19 impact on tourism | Article (5 min. read)

The impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry: A discussion with three of our clients

The tourism industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic all over the world. Here at Lazy snail, we are also experiencing an impact, as a part of our Cretan-based clientele are tourism-related businesses. Crete is consistently placed among the top 5 world's best destinations in yearly Tripadvisor Travelers' Choice Awards, this year climbing to the 3rd spot. It is no surprise that a lot of Cretan businesses face financial problems and even potential cease of operations, given the expected decline in arrivals this summer and the much shorter tourist season.

Christina Apostolidi, our brand strategist, discussed with three of our clients about how their businesses have been affected by the pandemic and what measures they have been taking to deal with the consequences.
Incoming tourism agency Cretan Holidays, οne of the biggest in Greece, had about 10,000 cancellations of scheduled arrivals in the period 15/03/2020 - 30/04/2020 alone. “The decrease in turnover of incoming tourism agencies in Greece is estimated to be around 70-75% vs. 2019”, says Andreas Moniakis, Director of Operations. “In order to survive, we had to minimize our costs and ensure financial support. At the same time, we had to prepare for the day that we would reopen. This is why we drew up a detailed COVID-19 prevention and control plan and we created new products for our customers, such as excursions for small groups or private excursions for one family.”

Family-owned company Kiriakakis Foods saw their turnover fall by 80% as they supply traditional Greek frozen meals mainly to the Horeca industry in Crete (hotels, restaurants, taverns, snack bars, catering). “Prior to the pandemic outbreak, we had produced large quantities of products in order to be ready for the tourist season; these should have been delivered to our customers by now, but still remain in our warehouses,” says co-owner Maria Kiriakakis. “Even when hotels open, we don’t expect to sell everything through the wholesale channel. This is why we are trying to increase our presence in the grocery channel. Already some of our products are sold in supermarkets in Crete; we are now looking into expanding our portfolio and creating partnerships with grocery stores in Athens.”

Anosos is a newly founded training center that offers first aid and fire safety courses to companies in Crete. The vast majority of their potential customers are related to tourism: hotels, tour operators, food companies, restaurants, rent a car etc. “We had to halt our operations from mid March and for two months during the lockdown,” says co-owner Stergios Starvianoudakis. “Even after we re-opened, we were hesitant to contact our customers to train their staff, as some still didn't know if they would open at all for the summer and all faced serious financial difficulties. This is why we redefined our product and now all our courses are offered online at a fraction of their original price. Employees can complete the theory part at their own time and pace using their laptop, tablet or smartphone. The practical part can be completed in just 2 hours, with employees and instructor meeting either physically or via video-conferencing. Not having to pull out all employees at the same time for training is very important for companies that at the moment operate with minimum staff.”

How do our clients feel about the day after? All point out to the cash flow problems that companies are facing, as well as the rising unemployment. Still, they remain positive. “Every crisis presents an opportunity and for us this was expanding into the grocery channel”, says Ms Kiriakakis. “Companies were forced to decrease costs and rationalize their operations and this will work to their benefit,” claims Mr. Starvianoudakis. “Greece is now recognized not only as a beautiful but also safe destination”, concludes Mr. Moniakis. “If we work hard, the 2021 tourist numbers could reach 2019 levels and from 2022 onwards we could aim for further growth. Momentum is on our side”.
*Featured image: illustration created by Lazy snail as part of Cretan Holidays' visual identity design