Prospects for the hotel industry in the near future look good due to the 2004 Olympic Games but the long-term outlook depends on the resolution of structural problems and a more proactive government strategy, a study by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) pointed out yesterday. The staging of the Olympic Games in Athens next year, the completion of infrastructure projects and the development of tourist facilities such as conference centers and golf clubs are expected to fuel growth in the sector in the coming years, it said. More, however, needs to be done to sustain growth, the independent think tank stressed, especially in the face of strong competition from low-cost countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. «Faced with growing competition in the global tourism market, a series of problems will need to be dealt with satisfactorily for the sector to strengthen its position,» IOBE said. It singled out the inadequate technical infrastructure in the country, the absence of a specialized body for promoting Greece, and the low level of hotel training and services as impediments. An example was Greece’s low spending on promoting its tourism assets. While rival country Italy allocates about 35.7 percent of its tourism budget on advertising, Greece only spends 18.7 percent of its budget, IOBE said. Added to this, the sector also has to deal with unlicensed hotels and tour operators who wield enormous power, it said. Close to two-thirds of hotels complained that a number of these problems have hindered their operation, IOBE said, while one in three blamed inadequate demand as a factor affecting business. The study noted a 5.1 percent average growth in hotel occupancy rates between 1996 to 2001, with 1997 notching up the biggest increase of 11.3 percent. Hotels in the southern Aegean attracted the most overnight stays, followed by Crete, Attica and the Ionian islands. Financially, the hotel industry indicated liquidity problems between 1997-2001, suggesting the bursting of the stock market boom could be a factor and that strong tour operators were depressing profits.