ECONOMY

Tourism industry expects bolder moves from new government

The new government has responded to the demand of the tourism industry for a reinstatement of the Tourism Ministry, eight years after it was abolished by an incoming PASOK government. Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and his deputy, Anastassios Liaskos are assuming their tasks at a difficult time for the sector, where an unsuccessful public administrative scheme was marked by considerable overlap of responsibilities among departments sparring with each other. The prevailing view in the industry is that because of erroneous policies the country in the last three years lost all opportunities for tapping the global event of the Olympic Games to the benefit of its tourism sector. As a result, the number of arrivals has remained stagnant, while a recent survey revealed that a large segment of the public in several large European countries were not aware of the fact that Greece is hosting the Games this year. Hoteliers said 2003 was one of the worst in the last 30 years; a stagnant number of arrivals was accompanied by a sizable decline in revenue, as package rates were sold at rock-bottom prices. The Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) warned in a statement of a new negative performance in the Olympic year. «The tourism sector needs bold moves that will allow it to be established as the driving force of the national economy. The new government is required to place tourism policy in high priority and give the industry a clear, flexible and strong administrative scheme that will allow the effective coordination and implementation of this policy, which must have both qualitative and quantitative targets; such a policy must also take into account the significance of tourism for employment and regional development, strengthen entrepreneurship, protect the environment and project our culture,» said SETE. SETE’s chairman, Stavros Andreadis, told Kathimerini the industry needs a stable investment and tax regime where to build a base for growth. The Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers’ general secretary, Gerasimos Kalligeros, stresses the need to set targets and priorities, along with a timetable for their implementation. He considers that the new government must make commitments for entrepreneurs to regain their optimism, and is encouraged by the fact that the new prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, made frequent references to tourism’s contribution to the economy while in opposition.