ECONOMY

ITEP: Greece to have 5 pct tourist growth in 2002

Greece can expect to see a 5- percent increase in tourist arrivals next year based on the double premise that the global economy recovers from the current uncertainty and the government takes steps to boost the industry, the Research Institute for Tourism (ITEP) said yesterday. We believe that the war against the terrorists will be won and that the global economy is poised to make a rapid recovery next year, factors which will pave the way for a good season in 2002, the tourist think tank predicted. It warned, however, that such prospects could go to waste in the event that the State does not take measures to maximize the country’s assets. ITEP said the government’s recent emphasis on domestic tourism to offset declining incoming tourists will not resolve the problem. Domestic tourism does not have the capability to replace foreign tourists, it stressed. ITEP’s criticism of the official focus on boosting the local tourist industry came after newly appointed Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos suggested that more attention should be paid to the sector to compensate for the declining number of foreign arrivals. The organization said that Greek travelers venture abroad for holidays and professional reasons, thus leaving them little leeway to explore the home market. Providing incentives for Greeks to holiday at home will only affect a small segment of the population and is hardly a solution. ITEP said the misplaced focus on domestic tourism is a sharp reminder of the government’s amateurish approach towards the tourism industry, with inappropriate and so-called experts setting out fallacious views of the sector. Referring to concerns about this year’s tourist arrivals, the institute said the numbers are expected to show a marginal decline from 2000, with the Attica basin suffering the biggest drop. It said that hoteliers in the region expect a 15-percent decline in tourist arrivals for the year against an estimated 4- to 5-percent decline for the country as a whole. The main tourist destinations such as Crete and the Dodecanese islands, which account for some 40 percent of tourist arrivals, remained relatively unscathed as a result of price cuts. More importantly for the country’s balance of payments, tourist receipts in the year to August were down by 1.5 percent while in August alone, revenues plunged by 7 percent. ITEP was similarly pessimistic over macro-economic projections, estimating this year’s growth rate at 3-3.5 percent against the official figure of 4.1 percent, with next year expected to reach 4 percent on the condition of a substantial increase in foreign tourists.