BUSINESS

Positive signs amid tourism gloom

By Stathis Kousounis

Despite the marked decline in hotel bookings, amounting to 50 percent, as a result of the ongoing economic crisis and the political uncertainty, local hoteliers are warming to the idea of ecological tourism, which raises the quality of the Greek tourism product, while the drop in cruise bookings appears to be much more limited.

In the face of the ills that the problems of the economy have brought on tourism, there now appears to be avid interest among hoteliers to be inducted in the Green Key program, which monitors the standards of sustainable tourism and promotes ecotourism.

According to the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, which is responsible for implementing the program on a national level, so far, 103 hotels in Greece have been awarded the Green Key. Program coordinator Dionysia Papadopoulou said the number of hotels that joined the program in 2011 rose by 70 percent compared to the previous year, while dozens have applied for the Green Key this year and are awaiting evaluation.

While the cruise market is showing signs of worry as it heads into peak season -- mainly due to the drop in bookings by Greeks -- it is proving to be more durable than other sectors thanks to overseas traffic.

According to Andreas Stylianopoulos, a board member of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) and vice president of the Passenger Shipping Association (SEEN), bookings from abroad for Greek cruises have only seen a slight decline. Stylianopoulos attributes the drop to the current negative view of Greece as a holiday destination and to political instability.

At the same time, the number of bookings by Greeks for cruises abroad has declined by about 20 percent on an annual basis, according to Stylianopoulos.

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