ECONOMY

202 bids for agrotourism

Greece’s attempts to diversify into alternative forms of tourism appear to be bearing fruit as a significant number of applicants submitted proposals to Agrotouristiki for joint ventures promoting agrotourism around the country. The company, a partnership between ETA, the tourist asset management arm of the Greek National Tourist Organization, and National and Agricultural banks, yesterday said 202 bids were tabled in response to its tender launched in January. The submission period expired on Monday. Declining tourist numbers and intense competition from neighboring markets have spurred the government to diversify beyond the traditional sun, sand and sea formula. Sports tourism, ecotourism, pilgrimage tourism and thassalotherapy have recently been marked out as areas with growth prospects. The move to broaden the country’s appeal to tourists is also part of the government’s strategy to increase the tourism period, which traditionally thrives during the summer and goes into hibernation during the off-peak season. Applications came from the private sector, municipal authorities, dioceses and even monasteries from all over the country, Agrotouristiki said. The majority of proposals were for the construction of hospitality infrastructure. All bids will be reviewed to see if they meet the basic criteria before moving on to the second phase of the tender. They will subsequently be judged on the feasibility and viability of the project. The tender is projected to be completed in June. The tourism industry, already in a malaise after the September 11 attacks in the US and also due to the global economic downturn, is expected to be hit hard in the event of a war in Iraq. Tourism numbers fell by about a tenth last year.