By Stathis Kousounis
The first indications regarding bookings from abroad for the 2013 tourism season are quite encouraging, with travel professionals expressing optimism for an increase in traffic next year, provided the right moves are made.
While still too early to reach any firm conclusions, data compiled by international tour operator TUI and seen by Kathimerini point to an increase in bookings from the UK compared to figures from the same period last year.
The data, which concern bookings for holiday packages in Greece made up until late September, point to a 7 percent rise next year, which is a very encouraging piece of news ahead of World Travel Market, an important annual event for the sector that will take place at the end of November in London, where Greece and other tourism destinations will be showcasing their tourism products for 2013.
Growth is also being forecast for other Mediterranean destinations, such as Turkey (up 6 percent) and Spain (15 percent). Egypt’s bookings, on the other hand, are at the same level as last year. Bookings for 2013 through TUI were showing a general increase of 10 percent year-on-year at the end of September.
Tourism professionals in Greece believe that implementation of the right policies could see the tourism flow into this country increase considerably from other markets too. The president of the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE), Andreas Andreadis, says arrivals from Russia could double and reach 2 million from an estimated 1 million this year. However, he stresses that for that to happen, a series of issues regarding the procedure of visa issuing must be resolved first. Meeting the target of an additional 1 million Russian tourists would automatically entail extra revenues of about 1 billion euros for the country’s tourism, says Andreadis.
He proposes that the Foreign Ministry cooperate with SETE in organizing seminars for all consular officers who issue Schengen visas. The seminars would be aimed at disseminating the successful model of their Greek colleagues in Russia, who have speeded up the procedure considerably.
Andreadis further applauds the Greek initiative of free visas for children up to the age of 12 years. On a European level, the head of SETE is in favor of the model of electronic visas, which will be one of the main issues to be discussed at the association’s conference on October 29-30.
He adds that tourism needs interventions in other areas as well, saying that the extension of the lease contract for Athens International Airport will have to be connected to the lowering of airport charges. Regarding the privatization of regional airports, Andreadis underscores that any concession agreements should provide that the investors to undertake their operation will not raise charges for at least three years after necessary infrastructure works have been completed. He is also in favor of the government signing contracts for the maintenance of airports.