ECONOMY

Good prospects for tourism — despite snags

The Greek hotel industry has generally favorable prospects due to the Olympic Games next year, the completion of large infrastructure and special tourism projects, according to a sectoral study by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE). However, the sector has to deal with a number of problems if it is to strengthen its position in the domestic and international tourism market, IOBE says. These include the relative lack of marinas, the lack of a specialized agency to plan and promote the country’s tourism industry, the inadequate level of hotel service training and the lack of consistency in services, the existence of a large number of unregistered accommodation facilities and the overpowerful negotiating position of tour operators. The study also points to the strong competition Greek tourism is facing from other countries, such as Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Romania, apart from other traditional Mediterranean competitors. In these countries, IOBE says, hotels have a comparative advantage due to lower costs and offer better services at lower prices. In the 1996-2001 period, the number of overnight hotel stays grew at an average annual rate of 5.1 percent, the peak year being 1997, when they rose 11.3 percent. The southern Aegean region had the highest rate of overnight stays of foreign visitors, 76 percent. Promotions The Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) is launching a big promotion campaign for Greek tourism on the Internet in the summer months (www.experia. com). The campaign will target Internet users seeking competitive destinations in the Mediterranean on selected tourism sites, where GNTO advertising banners are planned to appear 1.45 million times. It is hoped that this method will increase last-minute bookings to Greek destinations in view of the fact that in the last two years – and particularly this year – the percentage of foreign visitors planning their summer vacations before May does not appear to exceed 40 percent. A promotion campaign for Greek tourism is currently taking place on Britain’s Travel Channel and London Underground. GNTO has prepared three more pamphlets with tourist information in Japanese: for Delphi, Meteora and Pelion, and Corinth and Argolis respectively, bringing the total to 12. A convoy of vehicles sponsored by the regional authorities of Macedonia and Thrace on Monday will set off from Thessaloniki on a four-day tour through the western Balkans and neighboring countries with the aim of promoting tourism and trade in the region. The convoy is to pass through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia-Montenegro before heading through Hungary and Austria to the German city of Munich.