Demand for house accommodation for the Olympics is low

Owners of Athenian houses did not exactly rush to offer their apartments for rent to foreign visitors to the Olympic Games, but what is on offer may still vastly exceed demand. In a press conference yesterday, Filoxenia ’04, the consortium that manages the rental, and Athens 2004, the Games organizers, said that apartment or house owners had until May 31 to express interest. Filoxenia ’04 head Giorgos Pallis said that 25,000 applications from homeowners in the Attica region had been made so far, a number he called satisfactory given the fact that Filoxenia ’04 aims to secure 3,000 apartments to house 12,000 visitors daily. The visitors, however, have not made their appearance yet. Less than six months before the start of the Games, on August 13, only 300 contracts have been concluded. As Pallis himself admitted, interested foreigners are not prepared «to dig deep into their pockets,» at least as far as paying for accommodation, and are wary of the prospect of staying far away from the city center. They are asking mainly for small, cheap apartments in the areas of Kolonaki and Plaka, two upscale areas where cheap apartments can be found only in old, non-refurbished apartment buildings. To aid the program, Greece’s National Tourism Authority allowed Filoxenia to offer houses built before a major earthquake that hit Athens on February 24, 1981 and which prompted the revision of building regulations. The older apartments and houses can be offered provided the owners get permission from the Earthquake Victims Rehabilitation Fund, stating that their building has not suffered quake-related damage or that any such damage has been repaired under the new building regulations. That is why Filoxenia has extended the application date. The consortium has inspected 3,500 apartments and houses so far and has signed 600 contracts with owners to offer their apartment for rent. Rents vary from 35 euros per night and per double bed for houses over 20 years old to 90 euros per night and per double bed for new apartments in good locations. For luxury apartments and houses – offering, for example, a pool, a garden and a gym – the price is negotiable. Pallis said that most demands were for houses in the 70-euro-per-night range. Due to the lack of demand, the houses are now rented for a minimum stay of six nights instead of the 12 initially specified.