BUSINESS

Adjust or straggle behind your competitors, warns top tourism professional in Athens

STATHIS KOUSOUNIS

Greek tourism strategy has to adapt to new global trends, otherwise it will lose even the benefits that Athens gained as a tourism destination after the successful hosting of the Olympic Games, says a Deloitte survey. Presenting the findings of the «Tourism 2010» survey, the global managing partner of Deloitte's tourism, hospitality and leisure department, Alex Kyriakidis, said that in the next five years there will be four main factors of change shaping the tourism industry: the importance of branding; the impact of emerging markets, such as China, India and the Gulf states; demographic shifts and technology. Any failure by Greece to respond to this call for changes will leave it far behind, with no more than the «sun and sea» model. This will force it to vie for a share of a mass market of travelers who have no or very little fidelity to any destination, he stressed. The survey, conducted in association with the State University of New York for the annual meeting of the heads of the tourism, hospitality and leisure sector, confirmed that Greece lags behind all its main competitors, according to data from the last five years. Visitors to Greece increased by just 3 percent in that period, while in Spain they increased by 150 percent, in Turkey by 210 percent and in Portugal by 12 percent. Even Egypt registered a 53 percent rise, despite the terrorist attacks it has suffered. Regarding Athens, Kyriakidis emphasized that two years after the Olympic Games, he sees the hotel occupancy rate and the prices of rooms rising as the number of visitors to the capital continues to increase. It seems Athens, he said, will escape the low returns and the climate of pessimism experienced by Sydney after the 2000 Olympics. The latest hotel data, according to the HotelBenchmark survey by Deloitte, show that occupancy in Athens hotels grew by 7.9 percent in the first seven months of this year, from a 61.6 percent rate in the same period last year. At present, the rate stands at 66.5 percent, which is considerably higher than the 58.3 percent occupancy in the seven months prior to the Athens Olympics (January-July 2004). At the same time, the prices of rooms have also recorded significant rises, which leads to an increase in revenues per room. The presentation of the survey was attended by Tourism Development Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia, who referred to the initiatives the government is taking in order for Greek tourism to maintain the momentum it has gathered over the last couple of years. Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) President Stavros Andreadis made special reference to issues that can bolster tourism investment activity in Greece.

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