ECONOMY

Positive signs for 2013 emerge from World Travel Market

Holiday bookings for 2013 from the British market are showing a 15 percent yearly increase to date, according to the head of the association of Greek tourism companies, as the country is embarking on a new promotional campaign.

Speaking to Kathimerini on the fringes of World Travel Market 2012, the industry?s leading annual exhibition held in London, which concluded yesterday, the president of the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE), Andreas Andreadis, explained that after his meetings with tour operator representatives, the first signs for next year are very encouraging. When one considers that this time last year then Prime Minister George Papandreou had just called for a referendum on an EU bailout, which led to a freeze in holiday bookings, the relief must be considerable.

Andreadis said that usually at this time of year, between 15 and 17 percent of all bookings by the British market for the following year have already been made.

Greece is outperforming with its 15 percent increase, as British bookings to destinations around the world are up 13 percent. Rival destination Spain is showing an 11 percent rise in bookings from the UK, while Turkey?s increase is below 10 percent.

The SETE president added that there are positive signs from other major markets for Greek tourism, such as those of Germany and Russia, which have already made plans for more flights to Greece next year. He deems that the target of 17 million arrivals next year is attainable, on the condition that there is political stability and security in the country.

He went on to suggest that if tourism does grow in Greece, the targets of the state budget will be more than just covered. In this context, he stressed, there should be a reduction in value-added tax on food catering, citing the example of Sweden, where the halving of VAT in the sector from 25 to 12 percent as of January 1 this year had particularly good results.

The strong Greek presence at WTM this week included a press conference in which Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni and Greek National Tourism Organization general secretary Nikos Karahalios presented the new communication strategy for Greek tourism in 2013, with the slogan ?Greece: All Time Classic.? The conference heard that despite the country?s financial problems, the government has committed itself to spend the same amount of funds in 2013 as in 2012 for the promotion of Greek tourism, i.e. about 16 million euros.

The panel also included author Victoria Hislop, who said that although she is not Greek she feels ?Greek at heart,? and a Google representative who presented the new YouTube channel by the Greek National Tourism Organization.

WTM 2012 featured some 5,000 exhibitors from 189 countries and territories, and welcomed an estimated 29,000 professional visitors and 3,000 members of the press.