Fraport Greece rejuvenation: a catalyst for tourism

Fraport Greece recently announced the completion of its four-year infrastructure redevelopment across 14 airports in Greece. Launched in 2017, the project advanced successfully despite various challenges and all construction was completed well ahead of the April 2021 deadline. Frankie Youd profiles the project and investigates what the future of aviation could look like for Greece.

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Fraport Greece has finalised its four-year infrastructure development project at 14 regional airports three months ahead of schedule. The redevelopment of these sites will see the introduction of new services, more amenities and increased comfort for passengers while they wait for their flights. 

The redevelopment project, launched in April 2017 at a cost of €440m, set out with a mission to transform the airports in order to provide an improved customer experience. The project has seen the delivery of five new terminals as well as the modernisation and expansion of five existing terminals. 

Construction was carried out at airside operational areas and included improved ramp areas, runway renovation and the refurbishment of 12 on-site fire stations. Airport technology has also been given a new lease of life and has seen all the airports equipped with state-of-the-art baggage handling and security systems.

While many industries have faced set-backs due to the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, Fraport overcame various challenges brought on by the pandemic as well as peak summer travel periods to ensure construction advanced.

Profiling the redevelopment

Across the 14 airport locations, many have been refurbished, remodelled and now boast impressive new technology and comfortable leisure spaces. Construction was first completed at Zakynthos Airport, where check-in counters and security checkpoints have been increased by up to 150%. 

Chania International Airport - another site that was among the first to be completed - has received a modernising makeover, seeing gates increased by 25% and security checkpoints doubled. 

One of Greece’s busiest airports, Mykonos, has been completely remodelled; it is now 50% bigger and combines traditional Cycladic architectural detailing integrated with modern airport facilities. 

The largest airport in Fraport Greece’s portfolio, Thessaloniki Makedonia Airport, received its own redevelopment plan, costing €100m. The redeveloped airport terminal is connected via skyway bridges to the redesigned existing terminal, allowing for more terminal space to become available for passengers.

These airports will serve as a catalyst for restarting the vital Greek tourist industry.

With double the amount of departure gates, more check-in areas and new restaurants and shopping facilities, the remodelled environment at Thessaloniki Makedonia Airport hopes to increase tourism numbers to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city. 

This regional airport development project is one of the largest, instrumental investments for boosting the Greek economy during these uncertain times. 

The introduction of these new, modernised airport terminals not only provides new jobs but also provides a competitive edge within the region, which is hoped to serve as a catalyst to re-start and encourage tourists back to the country. 

Fraport CEO Alexander Zinell stressed the importance of the redevelopment in a press release.

“The completion of this emblematic, €440m construction program at the dawn of 2021 fills me with pride and optimism. Our upgrading of the 14 regional airports during the last four years has given Greece 14 new, passenger-friendly airports,” Zinell said.

“These airports will serve as a catalyst for restarting the vital Greek tourist industry. I am confident that these new state-of-the-art airport facilities will fully welcome and satisfy travellers wishing to explore the beauties of this magnificent country.”

Covid-19's impact on the Greek tourism industry

The Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to hit the global tourism industry hard. The aviation industry has been constantly subjected to regulations, location bans, ever-changing guidelines and monthly reviews.

Tourism is one of the most crucial sectors driving the Greek economy and economic growth. The severity of the impact of the pandemic on the Greek tourism industry saw a 78% decline recorded during the first nine months of 2020, with Greek airports seeing a 72% drop in international air traffic during the first ten months of 2020, according to the Greek Tourism Confederation SETE.

With Greece almost entirely reliant on the international tourism sector, schemes were established last year to aid the country. On 20 October, the introduction of a Greek scheme, approved by the European Commission, saw a €450m (£390m) cash injection to support companies within the tourism, construction and energy industries. 

The support took the form of subsidised loans and aimed to aid those within the named industries that had been particularly affected by the impacts of the ongoing pandemic. Last year, passenger footfall at Fraport’s Group airports worldwide fell dramatically, with some terminals seeing an 83% drop in passenger numbers. 

This in turn saw the group's revenue fall by an average of 54.7%, with net profit dropping into negatives for the first time in 20 years, reaching minus €690m (£600m), according to the Fraport fiscal year report, 2020.

Given this decrease in revenue, methods were carried out at Fraport to reduce costs amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The airport has since eliminated expenses for non-essential operations, which will see the airports saving around €125m (£108m).

The future of Greek aviation

As rules and regulations change, many countries will soon begin loosening flying restrictions, allowing individuals to fly once more to popular holiday destinations. 

Greece is one of the most popular summer holiday destinations for tourists due to its stunning beaches, sunny climate and captivating landscapes. This year the Greek tourism industry depends on several elements, the first being whether the Greek government will allow tourists from overseas to enter the country. 

The second will rely on restrictions dependent on having had a vaccination or a test certificate, and thirdly the Greece lockdown situation. If bars, restaurants and hotels remain closed due to Covid-19 spikes, tourists will be less willing to travel to Greece or be entirely unable to so due to having nowhere to stay. 

Due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic based on its dynamic behaviour, predicting the future of Greece’s aviation industry can only be based on speculation. For the current business year, the executive board at Fraport Greece has forecast group revenue to reach approximately €2bn (£1.7bn) this year, with group earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation to potentially reach €450m (£390m).

Greece suffered a second wave of coronavirus cases, and other parts of the EU are suffering a third wave. But as Covid-19 begins to subside worldwide, paired with governments setting roadmaps for airport openings, optimism within the aviation industry regarding tourism continues to grow. Holiday flights will be able to take to the skies again soon with countries such as Greece able to welcome tourists from around the globe.