The legal framework that regulates the operation of tourist offices in Greece is reflected on the provisions of law 393/1976 on “Establishing and Operating Tourist Offices” (Official Gazette Α’ 199) and the way it has been formulated after the amendments that have taken place under the plain ministerial decisions nr. 15408/08-11- 2012 (Official Gazette Β’ 2991) and 16016/18-11-2012 (Official Gazette Β’ 3055).
According to par. 1 of article 1 of the aforementioned law, tourist offices are “permanent organized businesses that undertake the transfer, the transportation and the residence of individuals and groups of people either inside or outside the Greek territory, design and execute tour programs and excursions with their privately-owned transportation means, leased means or public means be them sea, land or flying ones”.
According to paragraph 2 there are those tourist actions that tourist offices are capable of realizing and in particular and among others the following:
- “designing and executing tour programs and excursions inside or outside the Greek territory, with a privately-owned or leased to that specific end transportation mean or with public transportation means be them sea, land or flying ones”.
- “acting as the in-between in order to get and lease accommodation, food supplies, recreation, entertainment and means of transport”
it is highlighted, though, that all of the aforementioned options are available only through those tourist offices that “operate legally”.
Therefore, and in order for those tourist offices that are run by their owners who are of Greek origin or of EU origin, and by Greek and EU businesses, to operate and provide their services there has to be in place a procedure of establishing a tourist office according to the attached hereto Greek law under nr. 393/1976, which among others provides for:
- Submission of operation announcement of the tourist office
- Deposition of all necessary supporting offices as provided by law
- Reception of a certificate confirming all requirements regarding the operation of a tourist office with a Special Operating Sign until such is to be replaced
- Registration with the tourist businesses registry, as provided for by paragraph 3 of article 3 of law 2160/1993
- Registration of distinctive titles with the Greek Tourist Organization etc.
It has to be made clear, that with regards to the operation of a tourist office from a third country (not an EU one) the same requirements are necessary as described in par. 2 of article 3 of law 393/1976: “the right of operation stands also for all those tourist offices run by natural persons, third-country nationals, as well as legal persons who have their seat in third countries, given that they have appointed a special representative in Greece. The aforementioned right is recognized on condition that according to the legislation of the country of origin or seat, the exact same right is recognized to Greek nationals and to businesses who happen to have their seat in Greece”.
Therefore in order for a tourist office established outside EU to be able to operate within Greece it needs to have had someone appointed as special representative in Greece as a person responsible to follow through all procedures with regards to the establishment of a tourist office in Greece, by also being under scrutiny after such a query having being posed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the condition/ principle of Mutuality with Greece is indeed in place.
If there were opposing opinions with regards to the aforementioned, such a fact would lead to full inability to control and impose all sanctions to all those foreign tourist entities from Greek authorities and services , while the similar application of the Greek tourist legislation would be undermined, given that all tourist offices would be called for to comply with all legal conditions (such as, for instance, the deposition of a warranty letter in order to have the consumers safeguarded, if with regards to those businesses working solely online, as it so provided for by Ministerial Decision under nr. 17591/2012 – Official Gazette Β’ 3356), with the exception of those businesses owned by natural or legal persons, nationals of a third country !
Evidence to the aforementioned is provided by the valid article 1 case (b) of par. 1 of law 711/1977 (Official Gazette Α’ 284) dealing with tourist buses, which further regulates the transportation works as these are specifically operated by certain particular tourist buses of public use, which also deals with “the transportation of people in terms or organized tours both outside and inside the Greek territory”.
Such transportation work, though, as per par. 4 of the article at hand “… occurs via public use tourist buses on behalf of a legally operating tourist office, according to the existing legal framework …”, and thus the option of tourist offices of road transportations that do not operate within the requirements of Law is out of the question”
Simultaneously, case (b) of par. 2 of article 2 of ministerial decision 7073/2011 (Official Gazette Β’ 1266) bearing the title “Procedure of Providing a Special Sign of Operating a Tourist Operation Of Road Transports” specifies that “Tourist Operations Of Road Transports [in Greek T.E.O.M.] undertake the task by having in total leased to that specific end their tourist buses to follow through … b) the work of transportation in cases (a), (b), (c) and (f) of par. 1 of law 711/1977, as it is now currently valid, on behalf of tourist offices, as per par. 4 of article 1 of the same law at hand», in other words on behalf of tourist offices “legally operating as per the currently valid tourist legislation”.
Therefore the option of operating organized tours by Greek Tourist Operations of Road Transports in cooperation with non-legally operating tourist offices is out of the question, on the contrary, the competent Greek State Authorities are obliged to have imposed to the mal-practicing [in Greek] T.E.O.M. the sanctions provided for by par. 15 of law 711/1977.
As far as the Greek Hotels are concerned, they are to fall under the same restriction not to cooperate with non-legally operating tourist offices that are to mediate in order for accommodation to be found on behalf of customers of theirs (article 4 of law 2160/1993, where there are to be described the sanctions to be imposed to tourist businesses who violate relevant provisions), and case d’ of par. 4 of article 4 of the aforementioned law, where it is provided that there is also the sanction of “ A Fine of one million [Greek] drachmas, to the tourist offices and to the representatives of tourist businesses , and to anyone else (thus to hotel businesses included as well) that sign mutual agreements with tourist businesses of article two of the same herein Law that do not bear the special operational sign”