Tourism operators air complaints on project incentives

Tourism operators yesterday complained that recently unveiled government investment incentives fell short of giving the industry the required impetus. In a letter to Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) said the incentives, introduced under the Development Law, did not address all tourist operators, when the goal, as recently declared by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, was the total upgrading of the industry. «Discrimination is continuing against tourism when, by general acknowledgment, the sector is being called upon to play the role of steam engine for the Greek economy in coming year,» said SETE in the letter. The association noted that great differences continued to exist between the subsidy rates granted to tourism enterprises (25 percent at most) and those for industrial concerns (35 percent); such rates are regarded as particularly inadequate for modernization. Further, the law does not address special investments in tourism, such as golf courses, thalassotherapy and conference centers. «It is almost illogical for one to believe that a new company will opt to invest either in self-contained thalassotherapy centers or golf courses, because it is well known that these investments are not viable by themselves,» the letter said. SETE also said the abolition of interest rate subsidies was mistaken, as interest represents the biggest part of loan repayments in the first five or six years, when support is most needed. It also called for the 25 percent subsidy for investments of more than 30 million euros to be retroactively extended to projects now under way, the cost of which has already exceeded that sum. ETA State-controlled Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA) yesterday reported in its first-ever financial statement pretax earnings of 23.6 million euros in the first half of 2003, on group turnover of 59.4 million. The results include Hellenic Casino Mont Parnes, in which ETA holds a 51 percent stake. For 2003 as a whole, earnings are projected at 37 million euros and turnover at 127 million. The company is preparing for listing on the Athens bourse and the minimum total dividend which shareholders will receive for 2003 is estimated at 18.1 million euros. The listing application is to be submitted shortly, after completion of the independent financial, accounting and legal audit.