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Impacts of the refugee crisis on the hotel industry: Evidence from four Greek
Article in Tourism Management · August 2018
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Stanislav H Ivanov
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University of the Aegean
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Impacts of the refugee crisis on the hotel industry: Evidence from four Greek islands
Professor, Varna University of Management, 13A Oborishte Str., 9000 Varna, Bulgaria, tel:
+359 52 300 680, e-mail: email@example.com
Theodoros A. Stavrinoudis
Assistant Professor, University of the Aegean, 8 Michalon Str., 82132 Chios, Greece, tel: +30
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This paper investigates the impacts of the 2015 refugee crisis on the hotel industry on four
islands in Greece (Lesbos, Kos, Chios and Samos) and hoteliers’ responses to it. The sample
includes 96 accommodation establishments. Findings revealed that the refugee crisis had a
very serious negative impact on the hotel industry of the analysed islands and their
operational statistics deteriorated significantly. The image of the islands and of the
accommodation establishments were hurt as well. The hoteliers preferred to mitigate the
negative consequences of the refugee crisis mostly by increased marketing efforts to attract
more guests, and cutting costs and prices, rather than by working with fewer employees,
delaying payments to suppliers or requiring more cash payments. Managerial implications,
limitations and future research direction are also discussed.
Key words: refugee crisis, refugees, migrants, hotel industry, Greece
Citation: Ivanov, S., & Stavrinoudis, T. (2018). Impacts of the refugee crisis on the hotel
industry: Evidence from four Greek islands. Tourism Management, 67, 214-223.
The recent geopolitical instability in the Middle East led to a significant increase in the
refugee/migrant flows to European countries and mainly to Greece and Italy (173,450 and
181,463 arrivals respectively in 2016) (The UN Refugee Agency, 2016b). In 2015, 1,015,078
refugees/migrants reached Europe by crossing its maritime borders and only in August 2015
the number of arrivals increased by 1,500% compared to August 2014 (The UN Refugee
Agency, 2016b; Greek Ministry for Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism, 2015).
In the case of Greece, the largest refugee/migrant flows were recorded on the Aegean islands
located near the Turkish borders (Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Kos – see Tables 1 and 2) (The
UN Refugee Agency, 2016c). During the first eight months of 2015 on some of the above
islands the number of incoming refugees/migrants exceeded the number of the islands’
residents (Greek Ministry for Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism, 2015).
From a legal perspective, the concepts of ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ are quite distinct and the
difference is in their motivation to migrate. According to the Convention and Protocol
Relating to the Status of Refugees (UNHCR, 1967) a refugee is a person arriving in a
different country than the one he/she resides in, in search of refuge or residence permit owing
to the fear of lack of protection or persecution for reasons of religion, race, nationality, etc. in
the country of his/her nationality. According to UN Refugee Agency (2016a), migrants
choose to leave their country not due to an immediate threat of persecution or death but rather
in order to have better living standards through work, education or family reunification.
Should they return to their homeland, they will continue to enjoy the protection of their
government. For simplicity, in this paper we shall refer to the 2015 crisis as ‘refugee crisis’,
and to the people entering Greece as ‘refugees’. The political discussions whether they are
real ‘refugees’, legal or illegal ‘migrants’ goes beyond the scope of this paper.
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The refugee crisis has multiple negative effects on the tourism activity on the islands:
cancellation of hotel reservations, flights, conferences and cruise ship port calls; loss of
income; shrinking of the active tourist season; decrease in bookings, etc. As Table 3 shows,
the number of tourists arriving by air (the main transportation mode for international tourists)
decreased in 2015 compared to 2014. On the other hand, the number of overnights in the
hotels and similar establishments on three of the islands slightly increased, but this was
probably attributable not to tourists, but rather to employees and volunteers in non-
governmental organisations (NGOs), Frontex officers and in some cases – refugees.
Moreover, a large number of Turkish citizens visit the islands for short day trips without
usually spending the night there. The statistical data in Table 4 reveal that Turkish visitors are
not affected by the refugee crisis. This is probably due to the fact that refugees cross Turkey
and come to the Greek islands from the Turkish coasts by crossing the Turkish maritime
borders. Thus, Turkish visitors are quite familiar with the presence of refugees. The presence
of large numbers of refugees on the islands caused crucial social pressure as well as pressure
on the islands’ infrastructure and carrying capacity. An interesting fact is that on all examined
islands the number of refugees exceeded the number of local residents, thus leading to a high
ratio of refugees to local residents, which in the case of Lesbos, for example, reached 5.86.
This comes on top of an already high ratio of tourists to local residents, which, for example, in
the case of Kos reached 28.2 in 2015. In two of the four examined islands (Lesbos and Chios)
the number of refugees surpassed by far the number of tourists. At the same time, the
simultaneous presence of both population groups (tourists and refugees) on the islands
compared to the local population of these islands results in a very high ratio of tourists and
refugees to local residents, which in the case of Kos, for example, reached 29.92. During a
crucial economic period, these facts have triggered negative multiplier effects on the entire
economy not only of the islands but also countrywide (Greek Ministry for Economy,
Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism, 2015). They reduce the growth rates of the tourism
demand, especially on the islands under investigation, thus causing unequal geographical
distribution of tourism demand and a fall in hotel prices (Research Institute for Tourism,
Moreover, the image of the country projected through international and social media is
changing and is associated all the more with images of gloom and often poverty (Tzanelli &
Korstanje, 2016). The strong international attention drawn to the refugee crisis had a negative
impact on the tourism image not only of the islands where the major refugee/migrant flows
were recorded but of the entire country as well (Greek Tourism Confederation, 2016a).
Nevertheless, the same media also promoted the strong support and solidarity of the Greeks
with the refugees. The Hellenic Rescue Team and Efi Latsoudi shared the 2016 Nansen
Refugee Award for their voluntary efforts to aid refugees arriving in Greece (The UN
Refugee Agency, 2016d). At the same time, in February 2016, 236 international scholars
nominated the “Aegean Solidarity Movement” for the Nobel Peace Prize (Tselios, 2016).
Two main reasons led to the current research: first, the immense increase of refugee influx
and its impact on tourism; and second, the limited, to this day, scientific research on the
relation between tourism and refugee issues (UNWTO, 2009; Seetaram, 2012; Moufakkir,
2014) and mainly on the consequences of refugee flows on tourism (Pappas and
Papatheodorou, 2017), which is a central innovative aspect of this research. In the light of the
above discussion, the aim of this paper is to investigate the overall impact of the 2015 refugee
crisis on the hotel industry on the four most affected Greek islands (Lesbos, Chios, Samos and
Kos). In order to fulfil this aim, the following key objectives of the paper are formulated:
a) to evaluate the impact of the refugee crisis on performance metrics of the hotel
industry – number of guests, overnights of guests, average stay of guests, attraction of new
types of guests, prices, total revenues, number of employees, and total costs in 2015 compared
b) to evaluate managers’ estimates about the impact of the refugee crisis on the
performance metrics of their properties in the future;
c) to identify the effect of the refugee crisis on the image of the islands and hotels; and
d) to identify the coping mechanisms adopted by hoteliers to mitigate the negative
consequences of the refugee crisis.
Τhe investigation of the public authorities’ crisis management actions in the examined
destinations extends beyond the scope of this paper.
Τhe international literature is abundant of studies dealing with the impact of external factors
leading to crisis situations (political instability, acts of terrorism, wars, etc.) on a destination’s
or country’s tourism industry (e.g. Afonso-Rodrνguez, 2017; Causevic & Lynch, 2013;
Ivanov, Gavrilina, Webster & Ralko, 2017; Ivanov, Idzhylova & Webster, 2016; Ivanov,
Sypchenko & Webster, 2017; Saha & Yap, 2014; Solarin, 2015; Som, Ooi, & Hooy, 2014,
among others). In general, prior studies reveal that crisis situations have negative impacts on
tourism demand and supply. The presence of refugees and immigrants in tourist destinations
is one of the above factors, as it causes various feelings to tourists (active and potential ones)
and influences their total travel experience and their intention to (re)visit the destination
(Coldwell, Osborne, Crouch, & Walker, 2015).
The literature review revealed many attempts to research the relation between migration and
tourism. However, the vast majority of published papers focus on refugees and immigrants
who have settled and reside in the tourist origin countries and have integrated to a great extent
in the local society, economy and culture. Within this framework, Williams & Hall (2002)
presented a theoretical approach of the relation between migration and tourism through a
number of cultural and economic mechanisms. More recently, Seetaram (2012) found that the
number of immigrants residing in a destination can increase the inbound tourist flows. The
larger the immigrant number, the more likely it is for friends and relatives to visit them in
their country of residence, causing thus what she calls “immigration-led tourism”.
Respectively, Genc (2013) revealed the close relation between immigration and inbound
tourism demand in New Zeeland, while Balli, Balli & Louis (2016) claimed that immigrants
residing in OECD member countries act in a positive way (in marketing terms) as they attract
tourists from the country in which they reside and work to their country of origin. This is
achieved through their interaction with the locals.
Mehmood, Ahmad & Khan (2016) investigated the relation between immigrants, tourist
arrivals and crime rate in the United States, thus confirming the results of earlier studies
concerning the immigrants’ contribution to tourist arrivals and the bidirectional relation
between tourism and migration. Etzo, Massidda & Piras (2014) evaluated the effect of
migration on international tourism and revealed that the presence of immigrants in a country
causes both outbound and inbound tourism. On the other hand, according to Moufakkir
(2014), the prejudice of a country’s residents against and animosity towards immigrants affect
the residents’ image of the immigrants’ country of origin and mostly their intention to travel
there in the future. At the same time, the animosity of local residents towards certain
immigrant nationalities and the existential stigma affect the tourist experience and the
hospitality towards tourists originating from those countries since the aforementioned stigma
affects tourists as well (Moufakkir, 2015).
Other researchers address the extended hospitality concept which focusses on the reception
and hosting not only of tourists but also of immigrants and refugees. Thus, similarities,
regarding hosting tourists and immigrants/refugees, have been identified and the long-term
benefits of the reception/hosting of refugees have been elaborated (comprehension of different
cultures; integration of refugees into the host community; inclusion of refugees/immigrants in
the workforce) (Pechlaner, Nordhorn & Poppe, 2016). The above issue is of particular interest
for countries hosting refugees and immigrants on a long-term basis. However, the difficulties
in the coexistence of refugees/immigrants and tourists (management of refugees’ flows;
reluctance of tourists to encounter refugees), especially in popular and well-established tourist
destinations, whose economic welfare depends mainly on tourism, should not be overlooked.
For example, Van Hooren’s (2015) study on the social impact and the attitudes of locals
caused by the presence of irregular immigrants in Malta, approaches the issue of ‘outsiders’
(tourists and mainly immigrants) in a small tourist country, and indicates the practical
problems related to employment, health care, living space and safety.
In a different approach, Simpson, Simpson & Cruz-Milan (2016) revealed that the attitudes of
winter immigrants in Rio Grande Valley, South Texas, compared to the attitudes of
undocumented immigrants, affect both the feeling of safety of winter immigrants and the
extent to which they will revisit or recommend the destination to others. Starting from the
ascertainment that the new millennium is characterised by the simultaneous increase in tourist
and refugee flows, Russell (2003) researched the sociocultural impacts of these flows on
developing countries. She concluded that the planning of all kinds of activities at a local level
should include next to basic and tourist facilities also the necessary infrastructure for the
hosting of refugees. This ascertainment is particularly timely nowadays for the islands of the
Most recently, and due to the escalation of the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, the
international literature was enriched with studies regarding the impact of the refugee crisis on
the tourism industry of destinations receiving refugees. Costa (2017) investigated how
tourism demand is affected by urgent situations and crises in tourist destinations. To a great
extent his study also focused on the refugee crisis and its impact on popular tourist
destinations on Mediterranean islands, as it has been demonstrated by the fluctuation of prices
of tourist accommodations. Moreover, he indicated that the prices of tourist accommodations
had to be decreased in destinations where large refugee flows were recorded, especially when
this fact generated negative publicity (as in the case of the island of Kos). On the contrary,
other destinations (e.g. the island of Zakynthos, which is located far from the islands that
function as reception areas) benefited from the above situation and achieved a significant
increase of their prices. At the same time, the described phenomenon resulted in a delayed
increase of tourist accommodations’ occupancy on the islands that were affected by refugee
flows. A satisfactory occupancy was reached only after the neighbouring tourist destinations
had already reached a high occupancy. Pappas and Papatheodorou (2017) investigated the
impact of the refugee crisis on potential tourists’ perceptions of Greece as a tourist
destination. The study also dealt with the measures taken by the country’s hoteliers in order to
confront this crisis. The importance of host communities was stressed both for the shaping of
a tourist destination’s image and for decisions related to refugee crisis management, among
other things, in terms of tourism. At the same time, the researchers expressed the opinion that
tourism entrepreneurs need to regard the crisis not only as a threat but also as an opportunity
to create the image of a country that is tolerant, compassionate, and sincerely hospitable
towards refugees. Of particular interest is also the suggestion expressed by the researches that
a research dealing with those tourism enterprises on the Aegean islands that were affected by
the refugee crisis (i.e. more or less what this study does) would be quite useful.
This manuscript contributes to the advancement of knowledge on the relationship between
tourism and migration by empirically investigating the impact of refugee flows on the
hospitality industry, the image of tourist destinations, which are at the same time refugee
reception areas, and the approaches used by hospitality businesses to mitigate the negative
impacts of the crisis. Consequently, the research extends beyond the traditional approach of
the symbiotic relationship between tourism and migration [tourism and retirement migration,
tourism and labour migration, tourism and entrepreneurial migration, etc. (Williams and Hall,
2000)], and identifies the absence of significant benefits for the refugee reception area by
suggesting new aspects for further scientific research.
In order to meet the objectives of the present manuscript, a questionnaire was used that
included several groups of questions related to the research aims. The first group included
questions on the dynamics of selected operational statistics in 2015 (the year of the crisis)
compared to the preceding year (2014 – the year before the refugee crisis) and respondents’
forecasts about 2016. The second group evaluated the impact of the refugee crisis on the
image of the islands and accommodation establishments. The third group identified
respondents’ approaches to mitigate the negative consequences of the refugee crisis on their
businesses. Finally, respondents were asked about their estimations of the crisis’ duration. The
specific questions in the first and third groups were adapted from recent prior studies on
political crises/instability (Ivanov, Idzhylova & Webster, 2016; Ivanov, Sypchenko &
Webster, 2017; Ivanov et al., 2017), while the questions in the second group were developed
by the authors for this particular research.
Data collection took place between March and June 2016. The authors received detailed data
on all accommodation establishments on the four islands that were most hit by the refugee
crisis (Kos, Lesbos, Samos and Chios) from the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels. An online
questionnaire was developed and the link to it was sent by e-mail to all managers of
accommodation establishments on these islands. Table 5 presents the number of responses per
island. The sample includes 96 properties or 16.03% out of a total of 599 hotels and similar
accommodation establishments on the four islands. Sample’s characteristics are presented in
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INSERT TABLE 6 AROUND HERE.
The Kolmogorov-Smirnov z-test revealed that the answers of the respondents were not
normally distributed (all z-statistics were significant at p<0.05), hence non-parametric tests
were adopted for data analysis. In particular, the Kruskal-Wallis χ2 test was used to identify
differences in respondents’ answers on the basis of their category, location, island, type, and
size, while the Mann-Whitney U-test was used for measuring differences between chain
affiliated hotels and independent properties. Additionally, Wilcoxon signed ranks test was
used to identify the differences in respondents’ answers to some questions.
It should be noted that the authors have contacted the travel agencies operating on all four
islands as well, with the aim to provide a comprehensive overview of refugee crisis’ impacts
on the local tourism industries, not only on the hotel industry. Unfortunately, the
overwhelming majority of contacted travel agency managers refused to participate in the
research due to various reasons and only a handful of them actually completed the
questionnaire. That is why the opinion of travel agency managers is not reported in this paper
and should be subject to future research.
4.1. Impacts of the refugee crisis on accommodation establishments’ operational statistics
Research findings are presented in Table 7. Findings reveal that all operational statistics
(number of guests, number of overnights, average stay, price, revenues, number of employees,
costs) deteriorated. The number of guests in 2015 decreased by -22.79% compared to 2014
(row A4.1), overnights by -18.75% (row A6.1), prices plummeted by -12.45% (row A10.1),
revenues by -15.66% (row A12.1), while costs surged by 5.66%. Some of these findings are
similar to the findings of Costa’s study (2017). The changes in the operational statistics
(excluding the changes in total costs) are strongly, positively and significantly correlated
(Appendix 1), meaning that the drop in the number of guests is also combined with shorter
stays and lower prices, leading to fewer overnights and ultimately to less total revenue. This
conclusion is further supported by the regression analysis in Appendix 2 which reveals that
the percentage changes in the number of overnights, of prices and the length of stay had
positive and statistically significant impact on the percentage changes of respondents’ total
revenues. That is why, it is not surprising that respondents considered that the refugee crisis
had a very high (m=4.40, row A1) negative impact (m=1.53, row A2) on their businesses and
were forced to lay off employees (m=-5.26%, row A13.1). While hotels were hardly hit by the
decrease in the number of tourists and prices, the hopes of hoteliers to generate demand for
accommodation from new customer segments (refugees themselves, members and volunteers
of NGOs, and Frontex employees) did not materialise. Hoteliers reported that these segments
had very little impact on their businesses (rows A9.1-3). Hoteliers were not optimistic about
the performance of their properties in 2016 compared to 2015 either and considered that the
respective operational statistics would deteriorate even further (rows A4.2, A6.2, A8.2, A10.2,
A12.2, A13.2, and A14.2). The values of the Wilcoxon signed ranks test between the actual
changes of the operational statistics in 2015 (compared to 2014) and the forecasts for their
change in 2016 (compared to 2015) were all significant at p<0.01, excluding the costs.
INSERT TABLE 7 AROUND HERE
The Kruskal-Wallis χ2 test revealed that category, size and type of the accommodation
establishment did not influence the changes in its operational statistics because only few
minor statistically significant differences were identified (Table 7). On the other hand, we see
that the refugee crisis did not affect all islands equally: the accommodation establishments on
Lesbos were more severely hit by the crisis than properties on Kos, Chios and Samos, and
most of the χ2 test statistic values were statistically significant. Moreover, hoteliers on Lesbos
reported a higher impact of the refugees, NGO representatives and Frontex employees on the
generation of demand for rooms compared to the other three islands. These results are not
surprising, considering the fact that around two thirds of all refugees on the four islands
entered Greece via Lesbos island (Table 1), which experienced enormous social and economic
pressure, and much of the efforts of the NGOs and Frontex were concentrated there too.
Furthermore, the managers of seaside properties reported worse operational statistics than the
managers of urban and rural/countryside hotels and most of the χ2 test statistic values were
statistically significant. The reason is probably the mass tourist markets that seaside
accommodation establishments serve and their sensitivity to security threats like the refugee
crisis. Finally, while the average prices of independent properties dropped by -13.99%, the
managers of chain affiliated hotels reported that their prices increased, even slightly, by
4.38% in 2015 compared to 2014 (U=192, p<0.05), a fact which is in line with a recent study
(Costa, 2017). Although the prices of chain properties dropped in 2016 by -10.94%, this
decrease was much higher for independent ones: -28.69% (U=181, p<0.05). Therefore, hotel
chains’ strong brands, considered as one of their most sought-after attribute (Ivanova and
Ivanov, 2015), helped the affiliated properties to partially mitigate the negative impacts of the
refugee crisis on their performance.
It should be noted that there is a discrepancy between the secondary data on the number of
overnights on the four islands and the answers of the respondents. While the secondary data
on Table 3 showed that the number of overnights in hotels and similar accommodation
establishments on Kos, Lesbos and Chios increased in 2015 compared to 2014, the hotel
managers on the same islands reported a significant drop in the same statistics, i.e. by –
18.75% on average (Table 7, row A6.1). This discrepancy can be attributed to several possible
reasons. First, it is possible that the managers of hotels that were mostly hit by the refugee
crisis were overrepresented in the sample. Second, respondents might have overestimated the
impact of the crisis and misreported the changes in their operational statistics. Third, the NGO
employees and volunteers, Frontex staff and the refugees themselves might have used other
establishments than those participating in the research. In any case, our data do not allow us to
make a definite conclusion about the exact specific reasons for this discrepancy and further
research is necessary. However, in a recent press release the Greek Tourism Confederation
(2016b) mentioned that the number of tourist arrivals by air decreased even further over the
first six months of 2016: Lesbos (-63.2%), Samos (-39.0%), and Kos (-17.9%), which is in
line with the answers of survey participants that the refugee crisis had a significant negative
impact on their businesses.
4.2. Impacts of the refugee crisis on accommodation establishments’ and islands’ image
Respondents further agreed that the refugee crisis had a profound negative impact on the
image of the affected islands as tourist destinations (m=1.23, row B1) and the image of the
properties they manage (m=1.89, row B2). The Wilcoxon signed ranks test showed that the
respondents considered that the impact on the destination image was much stronger than on
the image of the individual accommodation establishments (z=-6.108, p<0.01). This result
was expected since the extensive media coverage of the refugee crisis focused on the islands
as a whole and rarely mentioned the names of any particular accommodation establishments.
Hoteliers’ responses were quite uniform and no statistically significant differences were
identified on the basis of establishments’ characteristics.
4.3. Accommodation establishments’ approaches to mitigate the negative impacts of the
Hoteliers preferred to mitigate the negative consequences of the refugee crisis mostly by
increasing their marketing efforts to attract more guests (m=4.13, row C4) and by cutting
down their costs (m=3.72, row C4) and prices (m=3.69, row C5), rather than by working with
fewer employees (m=3.04, row C2), delaying payments to suppliers (m=2.60, row C3) or
requiring more cash payments (m=1.96, row C1) (all but one of the z-values of the Wilcoxon
signed ranks test were significant at p<0.01, see Appendix 3). The approaches of Greek
hoteliers towards the refugee crisis are similar to those adopted by their Ukrainian colleagues
to mitigate the impacts of political instability in their country (Ivanov et al., 2017), and the
strategies of Russian hoteliers towards the negative impacts of the international sanctions
(Ivanov, Sypchenko and Webster, 2017). On the other hand, Greek hoteliers seem more
socially responsible than hoteliers in Crimea (Ivanov, Idzhylova and Webster, 2016) and were
significantly less inclined to work with fewer employees and delay their payments to their
suppliers. Probably the different maturity of the hotel industries in Greece and Crimea, and
their different exposure to international tourist markets (stronger in Greece than in Crimea)
might have influenced the different approaches adopted by Greek and Crimean hoteliers in
both crisis situations. However, further research is needed to support or reject this conjecture.
Some minor differences were identified in respondents’ answers. For example, hoteliers on
Kos reported relying more on increased marketing efforts than hoteliers on other islands
(χ2=9.704, p<0.05); the managers of seaside properties were more inclined to work with
fewer employees than the managers of urban and countryside establishments (χ2=8.931,
p<0.05); managers of smallest properties (up to 50 rooms) reported requiring more cash
payments than managers of properties with more than 100 rooms (χ2=9.053, p<0.05), and
worked with fewer employees than midsized hotels (χ2=8.561, p<0.05).
This paper contributes to the advancement of knowledge by investigating the impacts of the
2015 refugee crisis on the hotel industry on four Greek islands (Lesbos, Kos, Chios and
Samos) and hoteliers’ responses to it. From managerial perspective, the findings revealed that
the refugee crisis had a very serious negative impact on the hotel industry of the analysed
islands similar to empirical studies for other crises and countries (Ivanov, Sypchenko and
Webster, 2017; Ivanov, Idzhylova and Webster, 2016; Ivanov et al., 2017). Not only did the
operational statistics and performance metrics of the accommodation establishments
deteriorate, but their image and the image of the islands they are located on, worsened,
indicating that the echo of the 2015 refugee crisis would continue to be heard in the near
future. Unlike travel agencies that can relatively easily adapt to crisis situations and divert
customers to other islands, destinations or even countries (as some British, German and
Russian tour operators did in the summers of 2015 and 2016 after the terrorist attacks and
coup d’état attempt in Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt), accommodation establishments cannot do
this, because they are location-bound. Greek hoteliers need to work together with other
tourism industry representatives, local and national authorities to restore the positive image of
the islands, but their efforts might remain in vain if the influx of refugees continues. From
political and humanitarian perspective, the flow of refugees to Greece and other European
countries will not cease by constructing high walls at the borders and applying a stricter
border control. The flows will stop when their causes (such as wars, conflicts, terrorism,
climate change, and poverty, among others) are eliminated. However, this is an issue that goes
beyond the scope of our paper.
Hotel managers need to distinguish the consequences of refugee crisis into short-term (based
on the impact on operational performance metrics of their businesses) and long-term
consequences, which are the most crucial. The latter affect not only the islands’ and the
country’s image in the minds of potential, mainly foreign, tourists (Pappas & Papatheodorou,
2017) but also the strategies of tour operators in contact negotiations with hoteliers. The
aforementioned consequences are aggrieved due to a) the continuance, even on a smaller
scale, of the refugee flows, and b) the long-term stay of a large number of refugees on the
islands and its impact on the refugees themselves, the local residents and the businesses of the
islands, as well as the ongoing regular media coverage of the refugee issue.
Local authorities and islands’ businesses play a vital role in the management of the refugee
crisis. Still, under no circumstances can the islands deal with the current situation without the
development of collective actions and the support of the Greek state and competent
authorities. After all, under the current tourism, economic and geopolitical circumstances the
observed negative impact is not limited on the examined islands, but spreads to the rest of the
country, thus affecting both the economy and tourism in a negative way. Special attention
must be paid to the restoration of islands’ positive image and mainly to the support of
independent, usually seaside, properties which comprise the core of tourism supply on the
islands and are more vulnerable to external threats.
The main limitation of this paper is that it considers only the opinion of accommodation
establishments’ managers. As already discussed in the methodology section, the authors have
contacted the travel agencies operating on the four islands but the majority of their managers
declined to participate in the research, hence the impacts of the refugee crisis on their
operations were not measured and reported, which could be the subject of a future research.
Another limitation is the sample size. Although respondents account for 16.03% of the
research population, a larger sample might provide more reliable results. Future research may
expand the sample and include tourist companies (e.g. accommodation establishments and
travel agencies) on other islands and regions on the continental part of Greece. Furthermore, a
similar research can be implemented in Turkey, because the country accepted most of the
refugees in 2015 and is still the home of several millions of them. Finally, research can shed
light on the impact of the refugees that Germany accepted in 2015 (over one million) on
Germany’s economy and the role of the tourism/hospitality industry in their integration into
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Table 1. Arrivals of refugees by island
Island 2015 a 2016 b
Kos 58503 5147
Lesbos 506919 99361
Samos 104360 15157
Chios 120556 40521
Total 759112 155286
Source: a UNHCR site: http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/country.php?id=83#; b Unpublished statistical data
provided to the authors by the Hellenic Coast Guard
Table 2. Population, tourists and refugees
Kos 34396 970777 58503 1029280 28.2 1.7 29.92 0.06
Lesbos 86436 75767 506919 582686 0.88 5.86 6.74 6.69
Samos 32977 126789 104360 231149 3.84 3.16 7.01 0.82
Chios 52674 7214 120556 127770 0.14 2.29 2.43 16.71
Sources: a Hellenic Statistical Authority (http://www.statistics.gr/en/home); b Unpublished statistical data
provided to the authors by the Research Institute for Tourism of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels; c UNHCR site:
Table 3. Key tourism statistics on the islands of Kos, Lesbos, Samos and Chios
Island Key statistics 2012 2013 2014 2015
Kos Number of foreign tourist arrivals by air 802760 925834 10111194 970777
Number of hotels and similar establishments 269 270 268 263
Number of overnights 4518972 5276744 5340809 5796309
Lesbos Number of foreign tourist arrivals by air 48435 54395 76413 75767
Number of hotels and similar establishments 114 111 109 110
Number of overnights 394727 458918 563283 584023
Samos Number of foreign tourist arrivals by air 108151 103563 122392 126789
Number of hotels and similar establishments 169 166 166 163
Number of overnights 656947 773643 809466 797400
Chios Number of foreign tourist arrivals by air 8433 8735 8228 7214
Number of hotels and similar establishments 59 63 63 63
Number of overnights 144799 169882 177390 196374
Sources: Unpublished statistical data provided to the authors by the Research Institute for Tourism of the
Hellenic Chamber of Hotels
Table 4. Number of Turkish visitors on the islands of Kos, Lesbos, Samos and Chios
Island 2012 2013 2014 2015
Kos 43596 45184 58077 60971
Lesbos 25807 39005 43744 50659
Samos n/a 10710 13393 18292
Chios 29928 56254 68912 82075
Sources: Unpublished statistical data provided to the authors by the islands’ Port authorities and the Customs
Table 5. Sample size
Island Population size (number of hotels and similar
Share of respondents
Kos 263 36 13.69%
Lesbos 110 19 17.27%
Samos 163 28 17.18%
Chios 63 13 20.63%
Total 599 96 16.03%
Table 6. Sample characteristics
Grouping criteria Groups Number of respondents
Island Kos 36
Category 1-2 stars 29
3 stars 44
4-5 stars 23
Type Hotel 75
Resort hotel 12
Location Urban 23
Size Up to 50 rooms 52
51-100 rooms 26
Over 100 rooms 18
Chain affiliation Independent 88
Part of a chain 8
Total number of respondents 96
Table 7. Impacts of the refugee crisis on the hotel industry
Differences by island, category, type, size, location and chain affiliation of the accommodation establishment Question Coding Total
Kruskal-Wallis χ2 test Mann-
Island Category Type Location Size Chain
A: Operational statistics
A1) How would you evaluate the magnitude of the refugee crisis on your business in general? 1-no impact
4.40 0.747 6.805* 0.161 0.531 11.087*** 0.064 292.5 96
A2) How would you assess direction of the impact of the refugee crisis on your business in
1.53 0.742 14.593* 3.044 2.348 17.168* 1.686 310 95
Number of guests A3) How would you assess direction of the impact of the refugee crisis on the total number of
A3.1) Germany 1.48 0.640 10.171** 0.346 2.002 16.386* 0.351 288 90 A3.2) United Kingdom 1.61 0.633 6.833* 3.219 1.175 6.584 2.290 218* 88
A3.3) France 1.80 0.850 4.106 0.772 0.042 7.550** 1.586 133.5 69
A3.4) Italy 1.75 0.802 10.616** 0.879 3.657 10.867* 1.723 151 76 A3.5) Scandinavia 1.67 0.726 7.663* 2.323 7.964 3.312 6.062** 217.5 87
A3.6) Greece 2.06 0.789 1.349 3.639 0.422 5.542* 4.324 229.5 89
A3.7) Other countries 1.57 0.703 8.644** 0.478 0.446 11.161* 1.303 188 82 A4.1) How did the total number of your guests change in 2015 compared to 2014? Percent -22.79 28.562 4.574 3.126 4.807* 6.509 2.502 240.5 96
A4.2) Which are your estimations (based on reservations) about the change of the total number
of your guests in 2016 compared to 2015?
-42.58 24.972 15.044* 0.206 1.470 7.875 3.476 134.5*** 96
Overnights A5) How would you assess direction of the impact of the refugee crisis on the total number of
overnights of your guests from?
A5.1) Germany 1.48 0.660 10.832** 0.359 0.355 21.211*** 1.142 262 88
A5.2) United Kingdom 1.62 0.633 10.386** 2.940 1.999 4.804* 1.702 240.5 87
A5.3) France 1.63 0.722 7.348* 3.020 0.297 12.594* 1.184 143 71 A5.4) Italy 1.74 0.750 15.940* 3.584 3.904 7.910** 1.267 195 77
A5.5) Scandinavia 1.60 0.724 7.934** 1.430 4.332 7.031** 3.165 248 86
A5.6) Greece 1.98 0.857 1.797 0.430 0.293 4.259 1.809 213.5 88 A5.7) Other countries 1.59 0.724 12.047* 1.786 0.269 13.663* 0.479 185 80
A6.1) How did the total number of overnights of your guests change in 2015 compared to 2014? Percent -18.75 23.855 15.803*** 2.379 5.901* 0.094 2.317 246.5 96
A6.2) Which are your estimations (based on reservations) about the change of the total number overnights of your guests in 2016 compared to 2015?
-40.63 23.717 19.741* 1.791 6.255 2.279 3.815 216.5* 96
A7) How would you assess direction of the impact of the refugee crisis on the total average stay
of your guests from?
A7.1) Germany 1.79 0.823 6.820* 5.050* 0.357 11.023*** 1.495 270 87
A7.2) United Kingdom 1.87 0.843 4.342 9.845*** 0.498 3.280 5.438* 214 82
A7.3) France 1.87 0.851 3.326 3.266 0.690 5.026* 1.418 103.5* 67
A7.4) Italy 2.00 0.864 7.860** 1.705 0.689 7.770** 1.774 167 76
A7.5) Scandinavia 1.98 0.826 4.769 3.367 0.834 9.913*** 1.739 205.5 83
A7.6) Greece 2.09 0.868 0.637 2.185 0.687 9.470*** 1.961 209 85
A7.7) Other countries 1.88 0.811 9.103** 4.507 0.282 16.333*** 2.772 157.5* 77
A8.1) How did the total average stay of your guests change in 2015 compared to 2014? Number of nights
-0.83 1.421 4.475 4.762* 0.037 0.504 0.718 270.5 93 A8.2) Which are your estimations (based on reservations) about the change of the total average
stay of your guests in 2016 compared to 2015?
-1.35 1.246 0.047 6.644** 2.605 1.326 4.558 215* 96
New customer groups A9) How would you assess the magnitude of the impact of the refugee issue on creating new
types of guests for your hotel?
A9.1) Refugees 2.04 1.579 6.298* 0.966 4.259 0.890 0.450 292 94 A9.2) Non-governmental organisations members 2.06 1.420 14.425*** 2.839 2.002 4.418 0.305 298.5 94
A9.3) Frontex employees 1.98 1.391 14.776* 8.615 0.749 4.925* 0.393 334.5 93
A10.1) How did the average price per room per night change in 2015 compared to 2014? Percent -12.45 20.457 1.265 2.060 3.791 0.396 5.086* 192** 95 A10.2) Which are your estimations (based on reservations) about the change of the average
price per room per night in 2016 compared to 2015?
-27.21 19.868 9.226** 1.155 0.491 1.603 1.306 181** 96
A11) Are you willing to make more discounts (offers) in 2016 compared to previous years? 1-Definitely no 5-Definitely yes
3.60 1.192 14.898*** 0.244 3.941 2.126 1.427 281 96
A12.1) How did your total revenues change in 2015 compared to 2014? Percent -15.66 23.490 15.422*** 4.466 3.938 2.533 3.874 262 95 A12.2) Which are your estimations (based on reservations) about the change of the total
revenues in 2016 compared to 2015?
-35.16 28.465 7.824** 4.051 2.217 12.515* 4.387 183.5 96
A13.1) How did the total number of your employees change in 2015 compared to 2014? Percent -5.26 14.765 6.452* 3.076 0.013 2.996 0.574 282 95
A13.2) Which are your estimations (based on reservations) about the change of the total number
of your employees in 2016 compared to 2015?
-21.97 23.962 24.758* 0.778 0.802 8.726 3.906 327.5 95
Costs A14.1) How did your total costs change in 2015 compared to 2014? Percent 5.66 17.750 2.332 0.473 2.566 1.645 1.907 256 95
A14.2) Which are your estimations (based on reservations) about the change of the total costs in
2016 compared to 2015?
4.26 28.549 5.727 0.694 4.138 3.105 3.117 319.5 94
B: Image B1) How would you assess the impact of the refugee crisis on the image of your island as a
1.23 0.447 3.212 0.018 0.703 3.045 0.022 315.5 96
B2) How would you assess the impact of the refugee crisis on the image of establishment? 1.89 0.806 5.286 0.459 0.574 3.860 0.968 285.5 96
C: Approaches to mitigate the negative impacts of the refugee crisis
C1) We try to mitigate the impacts of the refugee crisis on our business by requiring more cash
payments by guests than payments by bank or credit/debit card
disagree 5-strongly agree
1.96 1.126 7.218* 6.340** 5.085 0.395 9.053** 319 94
C2) We try to mitigate the impacts of the refugee crisis on our business by working with fewer
3.04 1.324 6.895* 2.081 0.699 8.931** 8.561** 278 94
C3) We try to mitigate the impacts of the refugee crisis on our business by paying later to suppliers
2.60 1.388 5.088 5.234 2.040 3.347 3.958 231.5 96
C4) We try to mitigate the impacts of the refugee crisis on our business by increased marketing
efforts to attract more guests
4.13 0.942 9.704** 0.155 2.493 0.276 2.219 257.5 94
C5) We try to mitigate the impacts of the refugee crisis on our business by decreasing prices 3.69 1.098 5.072 1.087 0.174 2.656 2.713 269.5 94
C6) We try to mitigate the impacts of the refugee crisis on our business by decreasing costs 3.72 1.092 3.130 0.321 0.405 0.484 1.856 338 94
C7) The refugee crisis endangers our hotel with bankruptcy 3.47 1.165 14.981* 6.301 0.522 6.909** 5.612* 209* 95
D1) How long do you expect the refugee crisis to continue? Years 2.27 2.317 11.790*** 4.428 4.716* 0.430 5.312* 301.5 90
Notes: 1. Grouping of respondents: Island (Kos, Lesbos, Samos, Chios), Category (1-2, 3, 4-5 stars), Type (hotel, resort hotel, other), Location (urban, seaside, rural/countryside), Size (up to 50, 51-100, over 100
rooms), Chain affiliation (affiliated to a chain, independent property). 2. *Significant at 10%-level; ** significant at 5%-level; *** significant at 1%-level
Appendix 1. Bivariate correlations between the percentage changes of the operational statistics
Percentage changes of the operational statistics
in 2015 compared to 2014
1 2 3 4 5 6
Notes: ***Significant at 1% level; ** Significant at 5% level; Numbers of columns correspond to the numbers of
operational statistics on the rows;
Appendix 2. Changes in operational statistics in 2015 compared to 2014: Regression analysis results
Dependent variable: Percentage change of total revenues in 2015 compared to 2014 Independent variables:
Percentage change of the
respective operational statistics
in 2015 compared to 2014
B Std. Error Beta Tolerance VIF
(Constant) 0.153 2.170 0.070
Number of guests 0.028 0.069 0.034 0.407 0.653 1.531
Number of overnights 0.496 0.090 0.513 5.536*** 0.524 1.909
Average stay 3.085 1.416 0.186 2.178** 0.616 1.624
Average price per room per night 0.264 0.092 0.231 2.868*** 0.692 1.445
Model summary characteristics
Adjusted R2 0.595
Standard error of the estimate 14.9121
F(df=4, N=91) 34.037***
Notes: ***Significant at 1% level; ** Significant at 5% level
Appendix 3. Differences between the strategies used to mitigate the negative consequences of the refugee crisis
Strategy Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test
1 2 3 4 5
-7.713* -5.905* -6.760*** x
Notes: ***Significant at 1% level; Numbers of columns correspond to the numbers of strategies on the rows;
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