Spike in tourism bookings too little, too late for sector

All sectors of the local tourism industry are reporting losses as the year enters its second half, despite an improvement in the general mood following the formation of the new government and the reinstatement of the Tourism Ministry.

Hotel representatives note that bookings have rebounded after last month?s election, but believe that hotel figures will end the year in negative territory. There is also fresh interest in conferences in Greece, which comes in the wake of a rash of cancellations in May, one sector representative told Kathimerini.

The number of foreign package holidaymakers is seen going down by 15 percent, while the decline in bookings for rental rooms and apartments, campsites and yachts is expected to range from 25 to 50 percent, sources report. The cruise sector is proving more resistant to the downward pressure.

The flow of bookings from abroad increased after the June 17 polls, hotel sector representatives suggest. They insist, however, that their enterprises will see fewer guests compared to 2011.

Giorgos Tsakiris, the head of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, and Yiannis Retsos, president of the Panhellenic Hoteliers Federation, are both of the opinion that hotel revenues will decline by 15 to 20 percent year-on-year, occupancy rates will slide 10 percent on average, and prices will fall by 8-9 percent.

A small improvement has been reported in room and apartment rentals over the last couple of weeks, as the summer season is approaching its peak, the president of the Business Confederation of Rented Rooms and Apartments of Greece, Costas Brendanos, told Kathimerini. Bookings are posting a yearly decline of 35 to 40 percent, while there are room complexes that are yet to open for the season, due to lack of demand.

Bookings at campsites have dropped about 25 percent, on the back of another 20 percent drop last year compared with 2010, according to the head of the Campsite Owners Association, Costas Papadopoulos.

He stresses that the biggest drop in bookings concerns those from Western European markets. The near doubling of the cost of transporting caravans on ferries linking Greece with Italy has taken its toll on local campsites. Papadopoulos adds that some private campsites have not yet opened due to lack of demand, something he says has never happened before.

The number of foreign tourists coming to Greece for package holidays will fall 15 percent this season compared with 2011, the president of the Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies, Giorgos Telonis, estimates. Domestic tourism is also expected to take a hit owing to the reduced purchasing power of Greeks.

He adds that the domestic market has been dealt a major blow by the end to state-subsidized social tourism programs.

Yacht bookings are showing a 35 percent decline, rising to 50 percent for boats for up to 12 people, says the president of the Hellenic Professional Yacht Owners Association, Antonis Stelliatos. Worse, in the last few months there have even been instances of confiscation due to debts.

Stelliatos argues that there has been no post-election improvement in the general mood as far as yacht bookings are concerned. He says he believes that any shift will become apparent in the next couple of months, noting that bookings are made much earlier in luxury tourism, long before the actual vacation time.

Incoming traffic is satisfactory in the cruise sector and appears to be at more or less the same level as last year, according to Andreas Stylianopoulos, vice president responsible for cruise tourism of the Passenger Shipping Enterprises Associations and a member of the board of the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE). He says that the sector is proving more resistant to the crisis than other sectors of the tourism industry.

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