Plan to develop tourism over the following six years

Greece’s National Tourism Organization (GNTO) will be merged with the Development Ministry’s General Secretariat for Tourism and a new company, EOT SA, will undertake Greece’s promotion as a travel destination, both domestically and abroad, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos announced yesterday. Tsochadzopoulos met yesterday with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis to discuss a strategic development plan for tourism which covers the period 2004-2010. The development plan, which will be submitted to a committee of ministers for discussion on Monday, October 13, sets as its goals to improve the services offered: to promote Greece as a multifaceted tourist destination and, consequently, to extend the tourist season; to train tourism industry personnel; encourage private investment; get a bigger market share of the international tourism industry; and modernize the part of the state administration involved in the sector. Tourism accounts, directly and indirectly, for about 20 percent of Greece’s annual product. It is responsible for a great part of the income of banks, the transport sector, postal services, gas stations, food stores, port and airport services and affects almost all the capital goods manufacturing sector. The marketing company which will undertake to promote tourism and all affected sectors will be private sector-controlled. Private sector investors will have a stake of between 55 and 70 percent, with the State holding the rest. The strategic plans makes special mention of the need to expand room capacity. There are about 8,000 hotels in Greece, with over 312,000 rooms capable of accommodating 600,000 people. Rooms available for let can accommodate another 500,000. The tourism industry also comprises 4,850 travel offices, 750 road transport companies, 1,500 car rental offices, 200 yacht brokers chartering about 4,500 leisure craft, 30,000 restaurants, 10,500 souvenir shops, 2,000 guides and 350 campsites which can, all together, accommodate 34,000 people. The plan also emphasizes alternative forms of tourism, such as thermal spas. A bill on promoting spas will be submitted to Parliament this month. In it, the government will make it easier to finance such schemes. Later, it wishes to draft a bill providing further incentives for investing in the sector.