ECONOMY

Crackdown on tourism irregularities

The Development Ministry said yesterday it plans to tighten its supervision of tourism businesses around the country in order to improve the quality of services provided and to prevent occurrences such as the recent bankruptcy of Manos Travel. This involves the setting-up of departments at regional level which will monitor and check tourism companies to ensure that they follow the rules and provide quality service. A quality control unit will also be set up at the Greek National Tourist Organization. «The monitoring system to be set up is aimed at preventing undesirable incidents and not to punish businesses,» Dimitris Georgakopoulos, deputy development minister, said. The woes of Manos Travel came to light last month when a group of travelers was barred from boarding a plane at Athens Airport. Once a giant in the local travel industry, Manos filed for bankruptcy last month after an overambitious expansion program in different sectors of the tourism industry overstretched its finances. The company reportedly had debts of more than 14 billion euros when it went under. Such occurrences are few and far between, Georgakopoulos said, refuting charges from the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies that illegal and problematic tour operators abound in the country. «It’s hardly an epidemic,» he said. He also said the ministry has asked regional authorities countrywide to list the number of tour operators, legal and illegal, operating in their area so it can have an overall view of the situation. He said talks with industry participants on the setting-up of a reinsurance fund for travelers without insurance cover or ad hoc cases are expected to be positive. On prospects this year for the domestic tourism industry, Georgakopoulos said US-led military action against Iraq would affect the country but to a lesser extent than neighboring Turkey and Syria. He also announced measures to bring the therapeutic tourism industry up to par. The current legislation governing the sector will be revamped to attract investors. Companies already operating in the field will have five years to conform with the new rules.