UNWTO?s Rifai sees hope for Greek tourism

By Stathis Kousounis

?Investing in tourism in Greece is like opening a hole in the ground and oil gushes out,? the United Nations World Tourism Organization?s (UNWTO) Secretary-General Taleb Rifai told Kathimerini during a visit to Athens last week.

?It must not escape us that Greece is a member of the European Union, which offers one of the most attractive investment frameworks in the world. Transparency, stable legal framework and long-term stability,? he said.

Although parameters such as tax or other incentives may vary from country to country, serious investors do not place much weight on what happens this year or next, but attempt to project what will happen in 10 or 15 years? time.

?I am not at all worried about Greece -- on the contrary, I consider that your country has a comparative advantage. Particularly as regards tourism, I would say that Greece is a real gold mine,? Rifai said.

?If you couple methodical moves and experience, wherever you set up a hotel, a tourism business, you can have very good results,? he argues.

Rifai believes arrivals in Greece will follow the trend seen in the rest of Europe, where a 3.3 percent rise is expected this year. He is certain the rise will be moderate, below last year?s 9 percent increase.

In 2012, more than half of the projected 1 billion tourists worldwide are expected to visit Europe and Greece remains a very important destination for travelers, the UNWTO chief argues.

At a meeting with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, Rifai raised the issue of the difficulties in granting Schengen visas and their impact on world tourism. Papademos expressed support for efforts to make procedures more flexible. The issue is to be discussed at the G20 summit in Mexico in June.