Jolanda Kappa: “Things can only go better in tourism this year”
The picture around this year’s tourist season remains fluid as the coronavirus continues its upward trend across Europe and around the world.
The travel agent and treasurer of the Association of Tourist Offices of Dodecanese, Yolanda Kappa, states that no matter how difficult the conditions, everyone should give their best, so that when the coronavirus pandemic passes (because the pandemic will pass sooner or later ) and return to a certain normality, Rhodes has established its position among the top holiday destinations. Besides, the island has already proved that it can do it!
• The tourist season is expected to start at the end of March on foot from Israel, a market you know well. Israel is the country with the most advanced vaccination program. Do you think the Israelis will travel this year?
The Israeli market definitely wants and is ready to start at the end of March. Flights are scheduled normally, however we do not receive reservations yet. As you mentioned, the vaccination process may have progressed, but the lockdown imposed in the country has not yet been lifted.
The airports remain closed until February 28, without anyone knowing what will happen next, if the government decides whether or not to allow flights to and from Israel. So at the moment we are talking things are still fluid…
• What is the picture for the Nordic markets that you also represent?
The same picture, as I described to you before, we have for the Scandinavian markets. Airlines and tour operators have scheduled their flights starting in April and their schedules are slightly shorter than those of 2019. We receive some bookings from Scandinavia.
But any bookings for the early season are moved to September and October. Uncertainty prevails about the beginning of the season for this and they tend to carry bookings after the high season.
In the Scandinavian countries, as in all of Europe, pandemics are exacerbating uncertainty. Strict restrictions or lockdowns apply and all this does not favor the planning of summer vacations όμως But I believe that as soon as the intentions of each country for tourism become clear and clear and when the destinations open, there will be demand from Scandinavia and any other market…
• Will demand be higher than in 2020…?
It is a given that we will have more arrivals compared to 2020. Let’s look at it logically…
While last year no one was ready to manage the pandemic, we managed to attract 600,000 visitors.
From the first moment until the end of the season, the destination remained open to all markets. Institutions and professionals, we walked together with a common voice and common representation in the markets and we made common decisions and so we will continue. Only things can go better this year. This is my personal opinion.
It’s next to hesitate to book a vacation package – even if you have the financial comfort – as long as the pandemic does not subside across Europe and around the world.
But when the states give the green light, when the official announcements are made about the travels and the health protocols and especially if the quarantine is not imposed during the return of the visitors to their countries, we will have tourism. Clearly we can not expect to return to the sizes of 2019 or 2018, but surely things will be better than 2020.
• How easy or difficult is it to mitigate last year’s losses this season?
We must not dream that we will be able to balance last year’s losses. In general, I do not think we can think that we will recover what we lost last year. This will not happen so easily.
To reach the levels of 2019, we will need another two to three years. It’s like starting from scratch. The losses were so great that it takes time to return to the sizes of 2019!
• The role of the small travel agent is particularly important… How much has your industry suffered from the coronavirus pandemic?
The small travel agent manages to survive with great diplomacy… It is the intermediate link that tries to unite the large mass of tourism and tour operators with the local market.
Like it or not, Rhodes is a destination for mass tourism. About 85% of foreign visitors travel through tour operators.
In order for a large tourism organization to decide to promote each destination, it must be aware that it offers an overall quality product.
The biggest difficulty we faced last year was that we were called to move in uncharted waters. We did not know how to proceed, how to go below, what protocols to follow so that there is a season. And I can not say that someone was to blame for that. It was all new τόσο and so different. I do not hide from you that when in June 2020 it was decided that the season would open from the 1st of July, we were numb… We finally tried and we all succeeded together, agents, hoteliers, operators… This year we are not going into the unknown. We have previous experience that makes us feel more confident.
Clearly the conditions are difficult. The viability of the travel agent is threatened like any other entrepreneur. But in such times of crisis, whatever work one does, one’s main concern should be how to better organize oneself for the next day, so that one does not remain stagnant and above all to be present when the storm is over. . Our industry has been hit, such as the industry of agents, restaurants, hoteliers, suppliers and so on. I can not say that the blow to our industry was more severe πράγματα
Things are difficult for the whole market.
But when we all together and individually strive for the best and offer the highest quality services possible, responsibly follow the provisions of health protocols, warmly welcome visitors and make them feel that they are in a hospitable place, we will be able to overcome the reef more easily of the pandemic. The difficult times will pass and when the coronavirus is now a thing of the past, Rhodes should have established its place among the top tourist destinations. Now we are giving our exams and the performance of all of us must be as good as possible! It takes effort from all of us, professionals and citizens!
• The BoD of the Association of Tourist Offices of Dodecanese consists of young and experienced professionals and has given a clear position of its priorities from the first moment. What are the main goals you set for 2021?
We want to continue to contribute to the dialogue with all stakeholders for the tourism development of the prefecture. We do not claim a leading role in this whole process, we just want to be part of the joint effort, submitting our knowledge, our suggestions based on our experience and the messages-advice we receive from tour operators. This is our goal, to be useful for our place, this is what we want.