Alexandros Angelopoulos (40), executive director at Aldemar Hotels and Spa and board member of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), has said that Greek and Turkish tourism entrepreneurs should focus on opportunities and chances for cooperation rather than competition in the field of tourism.
Young businessman Angelopoulos, who complains about the fact that the authorities have been late to appreciate the importance of tourism in dealing with the economic crisis, spoke to Sunday’s Zaman.
Recalling that he has been in the tourism sector for 17 years, Angelopoulos underlines that there are great opportunities for cooperation between investors from both countries and that cooperation will lead to significant advantages. He says: “For a better and more worthwhile life, a company with four or five hotels in Turkey and another one in Greece may act as if they are one unified company. This leads to advantages. In a given period, if business is not good in one area, it should be promoted in the other. For instance, a potential war in Iran will strongly affect Turkey. However, its impact will be limited in Greece. A similar situation was observed in the problem between Turkey and Israel. Lots of Israelis visit Greece. It was observed that after the recent attack in Bulgaria, Israeli tourists picked Greece instead. Putting eggs in different baskets is extremely important in the tourism sector.”
Noting that Turks and Greeks have similar styles of thinking, Angelopoulos believes that Turks are sometimes more professional in tourism. He says: “Up until recently, we have been better than the Turks in the tourism sector. However, now Turkey is better because we failed to preserve quality standards despite the fact that our services have been less expensive than those in Turkey in the last two years. However, we have hotels that could work pretty smoothly. The Turkish and Greek line of thinking is the same. Families are loyal to each other and they are able to work together. Maybe the Turks are more professional; they were able to get along with each other.”
We have a lot to share in Aegean region
The young businessman, who believes that Turkey and Greece have a lot to share in the Aegean region, stresses that companies from both sides need to intensify meetings and talks. He says: “Turkish and Greek companies need to meet more often in the near future. The Aegean Sea, which has been source of dispute between the two countries, needs to be turned into an area of common interest. Turkey and Greece do not have anything that could not be shared. They actually have a lot to share.”
Noting that Turkey and Greece are not competitors in tourism, Angelopoulos notes that the quality of service provided to customers in the sector is extremely important: “Turkey and Greece should not see each other as competitors in tourism. We have to focus on cooperation opportunities between the two countries. The international gross operating profit in tourism is 23 percent, whereas it is 55 percent in our company. You are able to sell just because of who you are. I am not selling because I am Greek; I am selling because I am a good businessman and a professional. If we approached issues from this perspective, we would better address the political problems.”
Angelopoulos believes that tourism is successful in Turkey because it is directly controlled by the prime minister, and says: “Prime ministers have not paid that much attention to tourism in Greece. Tourism is ranked at the bottom of the political agenda. Twenty percent of revenue in Greece comes from tourism activities. What is more important than tourism? This is unfathomable. I believe that legal arrangements should be made to address the major problems in the sector.”
Noting that the tourism industry has always been underappreciated, he stresses that in the past, tourism was left to politicians who had no knowledge of the sector. Angelopoulos, who has high expectations for the future of the tourism sector, notes that they are optimistic because some government figures have extensive experience in tourism, including current Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni and Finance Minister Yanis Stournaras.
It is expected that the decline in tourism revenues will remain limited to 7 percent this year despite the ongoing economic crisis and two consecutive elections. The number of tourists flying into Greece in the period between January and July was 6.3 million. However, experts note that despite this promising number, the goal of 16 million tourists will not be attained due to the negative press in the European media.
Angelopoulos argues that the global economic crisis has a European dimension and also notes that the tourism sector has been in decline in leading European countries, including Turkey, which attracts attention with its dynamic, organized and high-quality tourism sector.
Drawing attention to paranoiac assumptions in Greece during the economic crisis that Turks would acquire tourism companies, Angelopoulos is one of the ardent supporters of the idea that Turkish and Greek businessmen need to cooperate in the field of tourism. Stressing that the obsessions held by the two governments and their nationalist approaches should not be taken into consideration, he believes that companies, businessmen and the peoples on both sides may play a leading role in this matter: “The most important part is the merger of the Greek and Turkish companies active in the field of tourism. As a result of this merger, there will be some joint interests. The governments are hostile towards one another. However, companies, businessmen and people do not have negative views. They are looking for a chance for a more decent life.”
The Greek businessman, reacting to slanderous campaigns by some circles against Turkish businessmen who are considering investing in Greece, says: “There is no color or nationality of an investor. He either has or does not have a vision. There should not be any distinction between Greek, Turk, Cypriot, Spanish or Belgian. What matters is whether he has vision. It is that simple!”