ECONOMY

New tourism minister feels that Olympics were under-promoted

Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos faces many pending issues with the tourist season about to begin and has told his collaborators that these must be dealt with as soon as possible. The minister’s top priority is to prepare for the accommodation of visitors, especially during the Olympics. It is essential that the level of services improve and that there be no negative publicity from instances of price-gouging. To this effect, controls of tourism sector enterprises will intensify and a Standing Crisis Management Committee will be set up. Concrete measures will include a special hotline, in six languages, for tourists. In cooperation with tourism industry professionals, the newly reconstituted Tourism Ministry will try to solve major problems that might prevent any smooth functioning of the market. The new minister believes that the year’s main event, the Athens Olympics, has not been adequately advertised. Thus, most of the amount appropriated for advertising campaigns, plus an amount set aside by Greece’s National Tourism Organization (GNTO) in the first two months of the year, will be spent advertising the Games, according to a «new and proper» communications strategy Avramopoulos has said he will adopt. Using ETA income Avramopoulos is being advised to use part or all the income earned by Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA) – the GNTO subsidiary set up by the previous government to lease state property to private operators, which the current government wants to abolish or turn into part of the state administration – for the campaign to promote tourism through the Athens Olympics. Throughout past years, tourism authorities have neglected domestic tourism. The ministry wants to put an end to that and is already devising a plan to promote the internal tourism market. ETA, according to Avramopoulos’s plans, will play a role in that by consulting closely with local authorities about their needs and paying closer attention to environmental requirements: Hence ETA’s being renamed as the Tourism Development and Environment Company (ETAP). The ministry will also create departments to help investors in the sector, with savings made by cutting down on red tape. Avramopoulos’s goal is to speed up the processing of investment plans that had stalled in various government departments. The Tourism Ministry also wants to complete on time the Olympic projects under its remit, such as the triathlon route. Putting training first The new government wants to make education and training for tourism sector professions a priority. It also wants to cooperate better with local authorities in promoting tourist areas. Avramopoulos’s has gained the impression in the few weeks that he has been in charge that there is a lot of spending by various authorities and departments acting in an uncoordinated fashion. As a result, money is wasted and the result is not what should be expected. Avramopoulos also wants to promote alternative forms of tourism and to encourage more foreign investors. His biggest obstacle is that foreigners may consider Greece hospitable to tourists but not to investors. Avramopoulos plans extensive tours abroad to visit investors and foreign tourism organizations, as well as travel operators. But his immediate problem is this season. So far, and despite the Olympics, the number of reservations is lower than last year.