GNTO’s improved outlook

After a downturn in 2002 and early this year, the number of foreign visitors to Greece has recovered and the total for 2003 is projected to be marginally lower than last year’s or even equal to it, the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO)’s new chairman, Nikos Dimadis, told the Athens News Agency in Vienna yesterday. He said Greece, which has invested a great deal in its public and tourism infrastructure in recent years, hopes the 2004 Olympics will have a lasting impact on the Greek tourism industry. He noted that despite the recent downturn, the number of Austrian visitors to Greece (about 600,000) has increased considerably in the last two years, and that reversely, Austria is Greeks’ favorite destination over the Christmas holiday. Greece will be the honored nation in the International Tourism Expo to open in Vienna in mid-January. Meanwhile, the National Tourism Council is scheduled to convene on Friday to discuss issues related to the planned reform of the government’s administrative apparatus for tourism, which includes the GNTO and the Development Ministry’s General Secretariat. The Council will also consider the 2004-2010 national plan for tourism and investment programs under the European Union-subsidized Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) for boosting competitiveness in the industry. General Secretary Costas Botopoulos, also a recent appointment, told a press briefing yesterday a reallocation of CSF funds will provide 45 million euros to the most successful programs to date. He also said the Finance Ministry has consented to the subsidization of tourist coaches, and that he is in discussions for the Greek satellite, Hellas Sat, to be used for GNTO’s promotion abroad.