ECONOMY

Plan to revamp Athens tourism to boost visitor numbers

Two US business groups are promoting a private tourism investment in Athens to the tune of 1.46 billion euros ? which could reach up to 4.38 billion when the business plan is fully developed ? aimed at attracting more visitors to the Greek capital and staying for more days than they tend to now.

Promoting the project are investment consultancy Bondholder Communications Group (BondCom) and museum design firm Ralph Appelbaum Associates.

The proposed investment consists of a program for enriching the tourism product of the broader Athens area through installations, digital services and theme parks (real and digital), in an effort to upgrade the capital to a top cultural and tourism destination. Plans include opening a Democracy Museum, a museum at Lavrio in southeastern Attica, a cultural theme park at Marathon, northeastern Attica, the development of the area of Plato?s Academy to the west of the city center, and upgrading visits to the Acropolis.

This form of tourism is increasingly popular around the world, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which estimates that it can contribute significantly to the regional development of many areas in the world.

The companies behind this ambitious project plan to get Greek Americans on board, drawing funds from them in the same bond-issuing model through which Israel funded the creation of its economy from 1951. The plan could add an estimated 960 million euros per year to the country?s gross domestic product, according to a study conducted for the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE).

The proposal was presented at a recent event in New York in which foreign investment funds took part as well as Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni and Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis. The project could reach up to 4.38 billion euros depending on the extent of the adoption of the original plan.

BondCom president Bob Apfel is no stranger to Greece after his role in the PSI (private sector involvement), the bond exchange process for the country?s private creditors that took place earlier this year. He had then undertaken the development and operation of an application for a network of iPads with real time connection that the Finance Ministry, bondholder administrators and the consultants used both for the voting process and the bond swap.

He is now returning along with Appelbaum, the biggest company in its domain with some 500 projects in 30 countries, and proposing the creation of two foundations for drawing capital: a Greek foundation that will collect funds from the Greek state and European sources, and an American trust that will issue bonds for the project.