ECONOMY

Hoteliers target ten priorities with gov’t

The negative developments that have hit the tourism sector worldwide in the last three years, combined with the falling prices of holiday packages and rising operating costs, have put a large number of Greek hotel enterprises in a difficult position, the secretary-general of the Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers (POX), Makis Kalligeros, told Kathimerini. He said that Greece has wasted a unique opportunity of tapping the potential offered by next year’s Olympics to project Greek tourism. «Those in charge of tourism policy exhaust their energies on a series of piecemeal measures which create more problems than they solve,» he said, noting that lip service is paid to the contribution of tourism to the national economy but little is done in practice to promote the country’s top currency-earning sector. Kalligeros is arguing for the setting of 10 top priorities and the undertaking of commitments as regards measures and timetables for implementation, after extensive discussions between tourism operators and the Economy and Development ministries. He said lifting bureaucratic obstacles that are lightheartedly set by the various public departments without prior consultation with operators is a top priority. Another priority is the promotion of Greek tourism abroad; abandoning the advertising campaign during the war in Iraq was a huge mistake, he said. Kalligeros said that the prices Greek hoteliers have been getting at the end of the tourism season in the last three years are up to 25 percent lower than those in the contracts with foreign tour operators. Consequently, the agreed price rises of 2-5 percent were essentially void. The same phenomenon can also be observed this year: Discounts, special offers and free accommodation to a third or fourth person are significantly trimming hotel profit margins. On the other hand, hotel operating costs have grown in the last few years. The main contributory factors are rises in wages, social security contributions and the price of foodstuffs. Kalligeros said this development has led many hoteliers to suspend investment plans. He also warned of a danger of capital that had already been invested lying idle, which, besides its direct impact on the viability of enterprises, would increase unemployment. Already this year, many hotel staff in the main tourist resorts had not been rehired by the end of last month.