End of the road for ETA

The new Greek government is to shelve its predecessor’s ambitious plan to list the state company managing the country’s public tourism assets, Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA), on the Athens Stock Exchange, and will overhaul the administrative structure overseeing the industry, Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos told Kathimerini in an interview, published yesterday. Avramopoulos said ETA assets will be returned to the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO), from which it was transferred when ETA was set up in 2000. «The property of Greek tourism is returning to its natural owner… As regards the listing on the bourse, we have given instructions for all procedures to stop, as this would constitute in practice a sellout of the property of the Greek State,» he said. Seventy-two of the more than 350 properties on which ETA held rights of management had been selected for development under the previous PASOK government, mainly through partial sales or leasing agreements with private firms. Plans were at an advanced stage for several of them, including the Corfu casino and the Almos marina on the southern Athens coastline. ETA applied to float 30 percent of its 301.8 -million-euro share capital on ASE last December. In late January, ASE cancelled ETA’s listing, which had been scheduled before the national elections of March 7; this was soon followed by a Council of State judge’s report on a test case which argued that laws allowing ETA to operate on private economic criteria were contrary to its public character and were therefore unconstitutional. The Council was scheduled to hear the test case in June. Avramopoulos said ETA will be renamed the Tourism Development and Environment Company, and its revenues will be used in the exercise of tourism policy. The Tourism Ministry, reconstituted by the new government, will strive to improve coordination among the various administrative agencies, he added. He said the country had failed to fully tap the potential of the Olympic Games to the benefit of Greek tourism. «There has been no essential link between tourism and the Games. No special advertising promotion was undertaken, or in combination with tourism fairs abroad… now we are working strategically for the post-Olympics era and are confident that the country will gain.»

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