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Greek hotels keep guests happier than rivals

STATHIS KOUSOUNIS

The guest satisfaction score at Greece’s hotels is higher than at rival destinations, according to data published by the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), drawn from ReviewPro.

SETE’s figures showed that the guest satisfaction score in Greece for the month of June came to 86.5 percent, compared to an average of 82.3 percent at rival destinations.

Analyzing data shaping the scores since January 2014, the association says that Greek hotels hold a clear lead over their competitors and that this lead appears to have grown in the past few months. It also notes that in the individual categories – such as value, services, quality of the bedrooms, food and cleanliness – scores have been higher in Greece over the past few months than elsewhere.

Greek hotels also take the lead at seaside holiday spots, with the Cycladic islands garnering the highest scores. In June, customer satisfaction on Santorini and Myconos stood at 89.4 percent and 89.2 percent respectively, significantly above other expensive holiday destinations. The score for St Tropez, for example, stood at 84.9 percent and Ibiza at 83.3 percent.

The guest satisfaction score presented by SETE was calculated by ReviewPro, a company that specializes in gathering information about hotels’ online reputations and what guest like and don’t like.

For the study pertaining to 2015, the company collected data from 1,126 hotels in Greece, in different categories and locations, as well as from 2,504 hotels at 16 destinations in France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Cyprus and Turkey.

Last year’s scores were shaped by 280,291 guests at Greek hotels and 1,094,807 at rival destinations.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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Jetoil gas company owner found dead, suicide suspected

The cofounder and owner of bankrupt gas company Jetoil was found dead in his home in the northern Athenian suburb of Dionysos on Sunday afternoon.

Kyriakos Mamidakis, 84, was found by his son-in-law at around 2 p.m. The presence of a gun near his body suggests he may have taken his own life.

Jetoil recently filed for bankruptcy and protection from its creditors after amassing debts in excess of 314 million euros.

The company, owned by the Mamidakis Group, attributed its debts to the economic contraction, the slowdown in international economic activity, which has affected demand in the fuel market, and the reluctance of local banks to finance its activities, mainly through guarantees for oil imports.

Of Jetoil’s debts, some 184 million euros are owed to banks, 87 million to suppliers, 2.5 million to the Greek state, 650,000 euros to the social security funds and 920,000 euros to its employees, among others.

The company was founded in the late 1960s by brothers Kyriakos, Giorgos and Nikos Mamidakis.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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After Brexit, only uncertainty is certain

NICK MALKOUTZIS Source:eKathimerini

TAGS:Analysis, Politics

As a world leader in holding elections and referendums, perhaps this is the time for Greece to step forward and offer advice on how to deal with the jarring result from Thursday’s Brexit vote. After all, the serving prime minister in Athens has experience of how to turn a referendum result on its head. Barring input from Alexis Tsipras on how the UK could stay in the European Union after 52 percent of voters opted to leave, Greece, like the rest of Europe, now has to deal with the consequences of this choice.

The first certainty is we are now looking at a lengthy period of uncertainty within the EU. It could take several years to negotiate Britain’s exit and, following Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision on Friday to not immediately activate the procedures under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, no meaningful discussion is going to take place until a new British premier has been installed in October.

European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, European Parliament head Martin Schulz and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte issued a joint statement on Friday saying they expect London to begin the procedure as soon as possible. “Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty,” they said. But the Brexit camp is in no hurry to put Article 50 into practice as it believes this would weaken their negotiating position.

This means that the turmoil witnessed on Friday, when the value of sterling plunged, central banks pledged extra liquidity and stock markets plummeted may be with us (albeit not to such dramatic effect) for some time to come.

Debilitated by years of recession and fiscal adjustment, Greece’s economy is in a particularly vulnerable position. Its vulnerability to shocks was underlined on Friday, when the Athens Stock Exchange was the worst performing bourse in the world as the general index fell 13.4 percent, with bank stocks suffering particularly.

However, it is in the real economy that Greece could see the most profound hit. With the pound dropping like a stone it is no longer clear that Greece can expect a repeat of last year, when 2.4 million Britons visited the country, spending an average of 842 euros on each trip. It should be noted that although visitors from the UK accounted for just over 9 percent of arrivals, the receipts from their trips made up 14.3 percent, meaning they were above average spenders who will be sorely missed if they do not make the trip this year.

As we mentioned last week, the International Monetary Fund sees the economic impact from Brexit on Greece being less than 0.5 percent of gross domestic product.

While other eurozone economies might be able to absorb this, for Greece this is a significant figure. It could be the difference, for instance, between reaching this year’s target for a 0.3 percent of GDP primary surplus and missing it to such an extent that the automatic mechanism for further fiscal interventions will be triggered, which could then carry a number of political complications with it.

Bank of Greece sources told local media that they expect the impact on tourism and markets to be limited. The European Central Bank also stepped in to offer reassurance to all eurozone members, saying it had a plan in place and that it is ready to provide additional liquidity if needed.

In this respect, the ECB governing council’s decision on Thursday to reinstate the waiver on Greek government securities so local lenders could use them as collateral for cheap borrowing is somewhat of a blessing. The decision, which will apply from this Wednesday, means that Greek banks can tap from the ECB up to some 6 billion euros via the regular, rather than more expensive emergency liquidity assistance (ELA), procedure. This would save up to 90 million euros in interest.

The ECB also confirmed Greek lenders will be able to take part in its targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTRO-II), which begin this month. The banks could lower their outlay on interest by another 130 million euros if they participate.

Although BoG sources pointed out that the capital controls which remain in place mean there should not be any problems at Greek banks, the return of the waiver adds an extra layer of security. Another boost would come from Greece being deemed eligible for quantitative easing. The ECB said on Thursday that this would be examined at a later stage this year, linking it to the discussions on Greek sustainability. If Athens gets the green light, the ECB could buy up to 4.2 billion euros of Greek government bonds from next month, providing something of a buffer in this tricky period.

The key question for Greece, though, will be how the eurozone reacts to the disquiet caused by the UK result. Opinion is divided between those who feel decision makers will seize on the opportunity provided by British voters and push for deeper integration between the single currency’s member-states, and those who believe that the separatist tendencies in the EU (the Brexit result has already sparked demands for referendums in other countries) will prompt politicians to be much more cautious.

Frederik Ducrozet, a senior economist at Pictet Wealth Management, suggests that the eurozone decision-makers are prepared to act decisively.

“If it proves necessary, we would not rule out another ‘whatever it takes’ moment to preserve the euro area’s integrity,” he wrote on Friday of the ECB, whose next policy meeting is on July 21.

“To begin with, the ECB could make full use of the flexibility of existing tools, including: 1) Stronger forward guidance; 2) QE extension beyond March 2017 as well as a temporary front-loading of asset purchases; 3) More favorable TLTRO conditions, especially after today’s weaker-than-expected net demand at the first TLTRO-II operation (around 30 billion euros).”

However, the central bank using the tools at its disposal to shore up the eurozone’s defenses is different from the key players in the single currency deciding, for good, that we are all in this together.

“Many people reject this nanny-state Europe with its bureaucracy and arrogance and that is why further integration cannot be the answer to this crisis, even if some politicians want just that,” wrote Sven Afhuppe, the editor in chief of German daily Handelsblatt, on Friday.

“Anyone advocating this has not understood that Europe is stuck with a serious crisis of identity. There cannot be any further steps toward integration without a persuasive, uniting idea.”

It seems that for the time being, Greece can do little but wait and hope. There will undoubtedly be a period of uncertainty until Europe decides how to respond to this political, economic and existential shock. The only bright spot is that over the last few years Greece has grown as used to dealing with uncertainty as it has to the fallout from elections and referendums.

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Artists lament theft of five bronze busts from central Athens park

Five bronze busts of eminent figures of the arts, politics and letters have been wrenched off their marble pedestals and stolen in two operations in the Writers’ Park of the Athens Cultural Center, bringing the total of looted statues in the open-air gallery to eight.

According to sources, the five busts were removed overnight on May 25 and 26 by unknown assailants using equipment that allowed them to saw off the heavy busts from their stands and make off with the recently restored artworks undetected.

In 2013, the busts of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, Nikos Kazantzakis and Antonis Tritsis were stolen from the same location and have never been found. It is believed they have been sold for scrap and melted down, fetching around 100-120 euros per bust.

“I have been very upset and extremely troubled since I heard of what happened,” sculptor Praxitelis Tzanoulinos, who crafted the stolen busts of Kostas Ouranis, Costis Bastias and Dimitris Horn, and worked on the restoration project, told Kathimerini.

“It despairs to me to think of the love, attention and dedication I put into those pieces just so have them end up as scrap at a foundry,” Tzanoulinos said. “For an artist, this is rape.”

Athens School of Fine Arts Professor Theodoros Papagiannis, who sculpted the stolen busts of Yiorgos Theotokas and Angelos Terzakis, also expressed his frustration over the incident.

“We are living in age of barbarism. What happened in the heart of Athens, for the umpteenth time, is proof that we are a broken country where nothing is protected. As a teacher and an artist, I am ashamed.”

Source: eKathimerini

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Acropole Palace, Rising from the Ashes

Memories of an old, cosmopolitan Athens come alive at this historic hotel Giota Sykka | May 24th, 2016 On the corner of Patission and Averof streets – one of the most neglected parts of Athens – cement mixers buzz while workers pave the sidewalk.Abandoned for three decades, the imposing...

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University of Crete revokes doctorate of German academic

The Political Science department of the University of Crete has stripped Heinz Richter, former professor of Greek and Cypriot modern history at the University of Mannheim, of an honorary doctorate.The 75-year-old professor was tried by a Greek court for his 2011 book “Operation Mercury: The Invasion of Crete,” in which he addressed what he saw as myths regarding the resistance movement on the island during WWII, marking the first time an individual was being charged under a new Greek anti-racism law.

While Richter was acquitted, the Cretan faculty was irked by comments he made to Kathimerini earlier this month in which he pointed out that if the university revoked his title it would be the second time in history that a German was stripped of such a title, following the case of Thomas Mann whose doctorate was revoked by the Nazi regime.

In a statement, the faculty said the title was based on “established conditions founded on merit” and criticized Richter for his “generalizing derogatory references to history and the people of Crete, in the public domain.”

Source: eKathimerini

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Afghan interpreters see their visa dreams fading

FILIO P. KONTRAFOURI It all started with a chilling text message. It was Wali, one of a group of Afghans who worked as interpreters for the Greek military in 2010-12 during NATO operations in the war-torn country. “I’m in Turkey with my family. One of my children died in...

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Dance Party | Athens | May 28

TAGS:Special Event

The Athens Boogie and HiRollers dance troupes will be taking part in an open-air sunset dance party to the sounds of swing, jive and rock’n’roll at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in the Faliro Delta on Saturday, May 28. Admission is free of charge. Starts at 8 p.m.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Faliro Delta, Evripidou & Doiranis, Kallithea, tel 210.877.8396-8, www.snf.org

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Putin and Tsipras seeking to profit from historic ties

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed Friday that it was time the deep and historic ties binding the two countries were manifested in further economic cooperation.

“We must transform these good relations and the emotional rapport between the two nations into tangible economic results,” the Russian leader said on the first day of a two-day official visit to Greece aimed at securing bilateral agreements in trade, investment and joint energy and transport projects.

Russia has shown interest in buying Greek railway company Trainose and the port of Thessaloniki, the country’s second largest.

Despite Russia being a major trading partner of Greece, the trade sanctions imposed by the European Union in response to the Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support of separatists in Ukraine are biting hard on both economies.

“These are difficult times for everyone – in terms of the economy and international security,” Putin said.

“We must examine these problems and look for a solution. It is not a coincidence that an opportunity for this has arisen in Greece – a country with which we have deep and historic ties.”

Putin expressed similar sentiments when he met with his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos, insisting that now is the time to discuss the potential opportunities that come with closer ties and “to take specific steps” – making a point of referring to the increased flow of Russian tourists to Greece.

This visit, Putin’s first to an EU country in six months, is taking place under tight security. Roughly 2,500 police officers were tasked Friday with providing security, while the city center came to standstill as traffic was blocked.

The Russian president is accompanied by his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and a delegation of senior executives from state oil and gas companies – an indication of the importance the Russians are attaching to the visit, one month before the EU decides on whether to extend sanctions against Russia after July.

Tsipras, who is also looking to Russia in Greece’s bid to lure much needed foreign investment, said the strengthening of Greek-Russian relations was “a strategic choice” and that Putin’s visit coincides with a period during which “Greece has turned a page and looks to the future with optimism.”

Even though it has repeatedly expressed its reservations, Greece has begrudgingly complied with EU trade sanctions imposed on Moscow, but the government is looking for loopholes that will allow the export of Greek agricultural products to Russia that are not precisely defined in the retaliatory trade embargo that Moscow imposed on products from the EU.

Putin will visit the monastic community of Mount Athos in northern Greece on Saturday to attend celebrations marking the 1,000-year presence of Russian monks at the sacred site. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow will also be attending.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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