ECONOMY

Athens hotels need publicity

Athens hotels are hurting from the lack of publicity toward promoting the area in the runup to the Olympic Games next year, hoteliers said yesterday. «Athens is suffering from the lack of marketing, especially in tandem with the 2004 Olympic Games. «Unfortunately, this link has not been exploited, we lost the opportunity,» Ioannis Retsos, secretary-general of the Athens Hotel Association, told Reuters. The association, which has about 300 members, in its August newsletter published yesterday, said the number of customers staying in hotels in the area dropped 17.2 percent in July. Retsos said the absence of an advertising campaign, the SARS virus outbreak, the war in Iraq and the global economic slowdown took its toll on the tourism industry in the first seven months of the year and hampered hoteliers’ efforts to fill their rooms. This resulted in a 13.6 percent fall in the occupancy rate in the January-July period, down from 16 percent in the first six months. The outlook is still bleak, Retsos said. «We should not see this as a reversal of the trend which shows the gloomy situation continuing.» He said the trend could reverse as the industry goes into the September-November period, traditionally the second best season for the area. «However, the signs are not good,» he added. The brunt of the fall was in luxury and first-class hotels, with the occupancy rate falling 11.2 percent to 42.39 percent and 51.71 percent respectively. Lower-priced hotels were relatively unscathed, filling their rooms at the same pace as the previous year. In 2001, the Greater Athens area accounted for about 10 percent of all overnight stays by foreign tourists in Greece. The government is projecting a fall in tourist arrivals for the entire year by up to 3.5 percent. (Reuters)