ECONOMY

Tourism sector fears 2004 may be a boomerang

Greek Tourism Enterprises Association (SETE) president Stavros Andreadis is apprehensive about the future of one of the country’s most important industries after 2004, fearing that any negative aspects of next year’s Olympic Games will be given overdue publicity by international media, thereby undermining the sector’s prospects. He believes the government must now undertake a broad campaign targeting the public and tourism professionals so that this great event is not exploited by profiteers and does not create new opportunities for discrediting Greek tourism around the globe. But Andreadis is concerned that the shortcomings of public administrators will not make possible the tapping of the huge benefits which the Olympic Games can bring to Greek tourism. He says the pre-Olympic period so far has been marked by a lack of coordination among the responsible departments and a complete absence of measures for linking the event to tourism. Andreadis says that despite repeated appeals by SETE and other related bodies, precious time has been lost in implementing a strategic plan for the development of Greek tourism. He believes that training in the industry is at unacceptably low levels and urgent action is needed. «Even if we adopt the ideal training system now, the results will be seen after three to four years,» he says, predicting that in coming years Greece will see an increasing exodus of the labor force from the primary and secondary sectors of the economy to services. «It is not a coincidence that the ratio between subsidized investments in industry and tourism fell from 6:1 in 1998 to 2:1 last year,» he says, predicting that tourism will overtake industry at the end of 2005. Another serious shortcoming in maintaining the competitiveness of Greek tourism is inadequate attention given to trends and realignments in the industry worldwide, particularly as regards tour operators and the air transport business. Andreadis argues that Greece is much more dependent on air transport for its tourism than are other European destinations, and the lack of a policy for attracting low-cost airlines and lack of support to privately operated domestic carriers will probably lead to a further loss in competitiveness. However, he rejects the notion that competitiveness is directly related to cost, noting that the world’s top 10 destinations by number of arrivals are also countries with a relatively high cost of living. The SETE president is rather guarded about business overall next year, despite the Olympics. He says that initial data on UK bookings for Greece are showing a significant drop. On the other hand, there are hopes that economic recovery will boost the flow from Germany. SETE is scheduled to give a press briefing on Tuesday.