Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Shortage of skilled and experienced workers in Greek tourism industry

Shortage of skilled and experienced workers in Greek tourism industry

By Dimitra Triantafillou

With less than two months to go before the start of the summer tourist season, industry operators are worried about the final number of workers who will drive Greece’s heaviest industry forward. After all, this year was preceded by a difficult 2023 with significant labor shortages. According to a survey conducted by the Institute for Tourism Research and Forecasts on behalf of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, one in five jobs at Greek hotels remained unfilled last year.

In an effort to find a solution to this legitimate concern, a few days ago, DYPA, through the EURES (European Employment Services) National Coordination Office, held the first online European Tourism Career Day, Work in Greece – Filoxenia.

“All the feedback we receive from the industry is that there is a great need for staff. Recruitment is starting earlier and earlier as the season has lengthened, reaching seven months in some regions. The number of tourists is also increasing. But there is a lack of qualified and experienced workers,” Spiros Protopsaltis, the governor of DYPA, told Kathimerini. He adds that there is also a lack of effective coordination between companies and workers, as the employment services are not informed of all vacancies by region and company.

At this first event organized by DYPA, where a call for applications was sent to workers all over Europe, 200 companies participated with over 1,300 jobs on offer. More than 1,000 candidates from countries as varied as Spain, France, Portugal, Romania, Hungary, Denmark and the Netherlands submitted their CVs through the event’s online link.

“On-the-spot online interviews were conducted in both chat and face-to-face video formats. The positions most in demand were receptionists, childcare workers, cooks, lifeguards, customer service staff, night auditors, night receptionists and guest relations managers,” notes Protopsaltis.


DYPA is planning other online European Tourism Career Days – to be announced soon – and on March 30, the service will organize a major event at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in southern Athens, in which hundreds of companies in the sector will participate.


34% fewer hands

Giorgos Hotzoglou, president of the Panhellenic Federation of Food and Tourism Workers (POEET), speaks of another season with hiring difficulties.

He even sees 34% fewer workers than last year, when 53,229 positions were unfilled. And how is this figure reached? “The procedure for the re-employment of seasonal workers is provided for both by Greek law, with a 1982 law, and by the employment contract that is active and has been declared compulsory. The procedure begins on January 3 and ends on January 30. Those concerned should contact their primary trade union, whether it is a company or sectoral union, and fill in the application form for re-employment. According to national figures, the number of applications is 34% lower than last year. This means that unfilled positions are expected to reach at least 60,000, and if not enough ‘fresh’ workers enter the sector, they could even reach 65,000,” despite a 5% wage increase under the collective agreement (preceded by a 5.5% increase in 2023).

According to Hotzoglou, “the main reason for the hemorrhaging of workers is the unemployment benefit for seasonal workers, which lasts only three months, with an average salary of 1,200 euros. How do you cover the remaining six months? And six months is at best if the person works on Crete or Rhodes, for example. An equally fundamental problem is the high degree of work intensity, as in some cases workers have to work up to 14 hours a day.”

One waiter for 55 customers

Also, according to Hotzoglou, the transfer of workers from third countries, an initiative that was implemented for the first time last year, has not yielded the expected results, leaving “many vacancies at hotels for cooks, maids and bellhops.”

As a result, the quality of the tourism product is deteriorating and there are phenomena of unfair competition among businesses. As he describes it: “During our visits last year as a federation, we saw at a large five-star hotel outside Iraklio on Crete that during dinner there was one waiter for every 55 customers. At the same time, at major tourist destinations, there were literally fights over a single worker. For example, at a bus stop where vans of workers pass, we saw human resources managers from competing companies across the street trying to recruit them.”

Concerns at POESE and SETE

According to Konstantinos Marinakos, vice president of the Hellenic Hoteliers Federation, the problem is concentrated in the five regions of the country most popular with tourists: Attica, the South Aegean, Crete, Central Macedonia and the Ionian Islands.

Speaking to Kathimerini, Giorgos Kavvathas, president of the Panhellenic Federation of Restaurants and Related Professions (POESE) and the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE), expressed concern. “This year there is more demand for workers, but we continue to lack those with knowledge and experience. These workers often do not receive the desired wages. However, as workers in the restaurant industry change jobs and employers more often, there is room to improve the situation by the time the season starts.”

Kavvathas also points to unfair competition between businesses, saying that entrepreneurs in southern Greece are trying to attract workers from northern Greece, creating problems in the market.

“As we approach the start of the new season, all of our industry associations are talking about the lack of qualified staff,” says Alexandros Thanos, appointed consultant of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE).

He notes that the number of employees who left the industry during the pandemic has not only not been replaced, but is continuing to rise every year. And this is a global problem, not just a Greek one.

“The solutions offered by the state must be functional. The proposal for non-permanent workers did not seem to work last year. It has many levels of bureaucracy and involves many ministries. The focus should be on training and incentives for seasonal workers. One example is the extension of unemployment benefits until we can deal with the seasonality that characterizes not only tourism but other important sectors of the Greek economy too.”


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