ECONOMY

Tourism firms call for push toward promotion abroad

The quadrupling of Greece’s tourism budget, aimed at promoting the sector abroad, is among the recommendations put forth by the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE), its chairman told Kathimerini in an interview, adding that this could be supported by revenues stemming from Hellenic Tourist Properties (ETA). SETE Chairman Stavros Andreadis referred to Greece’s lagging tourism bookings this year, despite the upcoming Olympic Games, and stressed that more work needs to be done on the communications front with the little time left before the Games commence. Following the change of government last month, Andreadis added that the finance and tourism ministers appear on track toward creating the right conditions that will allow for more investments in the sector. What is your position in regards to funds «packages» aimed at paying for tourism issues, ranging from international tourism exhibitions to the structuring of administrative services at the Ministry of Tourism? How much should Greece spend on promoting the country abroad? I suggest the funds «package» for Greek tourism be renamed as the communication strategy for Greek tourism. The communication strategy will include a large scope of activities, ranging from market surveys to public relations activities. Everything professionals use to promote their services and products. It is known that the promotional side of Greek tourism has not been handled properly up until now. There have been no stable advertising budgets. Up until now, the budget was decided at the discretion of each finance minister. Today we have the first positive step, the linking of tourism advertising revenues with earnings from casinos, which are being privatized by ETA. We think that this type of connection should be expanded to include ETA’s total profits, as all of its activities are exclusively related to tourism. This way, Greek tourism will have access to 25 million euros annually for its communication and promotion strategy, four times the current amount. Apart from this amount, a necessary condition for the efficient promotion of Greek tourism is professionalism. No more committees consisting of administration employees and department representatives are needed. A professional team with high standards should be created which would be under the direct supervision of the Tourism Ministry. Are there any signs of negative messages appearing from this year’s traffic in tourism. And if so, what are your estimates regarding this year? It is true that to date bookings are behind last year’s levels, which was also a bad year. This is explained in part by the growing trend toward last-minute bookings. It is also explained by the fact that internationally there is a distorted view of our country. The pre-Olympic impression of Athens consists of projects being completed at the last minute, rumors of soaring prices and the possibility of a terrorist attack. This has influenced a large number of people who would like to visit here. The way the year unfolds will depend on how quickly and efficiently we can change this image and of course on the «climate» that exists during the Games. Which do you believe should be the new government’s first steps ahead of the Olympic Games? I think that in the short time left we need to focus especially on communication issues and on the best possible preparation for our visitors during the Games. The image the country will project to a worldwide audience – which will watch us on television – is very important. Beyond the Games, we have ahead of us serious problems that require immediate solutions. The new head of the Tourism Ministry needs to objectively record weaknesses in our tourism structure in both the public and private sectors. In the last 40 years, tourism has unfortunately grown with little overall control and in a way that was based on opportunism. Today, in an environment where there are more demands, we are now paying the price. The complex problems that have built up in the past thanks to a government which transferred them to the future have lead to a situation that is weighing on the sector. The Tourism Ministry needs to take brave initiatives.