ECONOMY

Home rentals program for the Olympics fails to attract clients

Filoxenia ’04, the company that manages the program of accommodating visitors to the Athens Olympics in private housing, will likely achieve its target of finding 3,000 apartments and individual houses. Finding the 12,000 clients to fill them will be rather trickier. The number of apartment or house owners offering their properties for accommodation, in order to make up for the shortage of hotel rooms in Athens, is many times that of required rooms. However, interest by foreign clients appears very limited. According to high-ranking company managers, foreign interest is well below their expectations. They are now pinning their hopes for hitting the target number of clients to some last-moment surge in demand. They attribute low demand to continuing problems with international terrorism plus a barrage of international media articles about delays in Olympics-related projects; these two factors, especially, make potential clients hesitant. Another negative factor is Euro 2004, the European soccer tournament that will take place in Portugal in 2004. Given the sport’s popularity in Europe, it is understandable that many Europeans will prefer the shorter trip to Portugal. The tight economic conditions prevailing in Europe mean that, for most of them, two foreign trips in a summer are out of the question. On top of these negative factors, the delay by Games organizers Athens 2004 in negotiating with the two main consortiums that bid for the contract – Alpha Filoxenia 2004 and Elliniki Filoxenia – before they agreed to join forces and set up Filoxenia ’04, limited the time available for a promotional campaign abroad. An indication that the accommodation program is not going well is the decision by the consortium to no longer provide statistics. During the last such presentation to the media, in mid-February, Filoxenia ’04 had revealed that just 300 apartments or houses had been rented to foreigners. According to sources, the number of rented units is now closer to 450. Also, in mid-February, more than 25,000 units had been offered to the consortium and contracts signed for 600. Given that Athens is considered one of the most expensive European cities regarding accommodation, prospective foreign visitors are mostly interested in small, cheap apartments in the city center. However, the great majority of such apartments predate the 1981 earthquake – following which, more exacting construction standards were introduced – and are thus ineligible for Filoxenia’s program. In order to find a way around the issue, Greece’s National tourism Organization (GNTO) allowed the company to accept applications for older apartments provided that the owner could get a certificate that the building has not suffered damage from an earthquake, or that, if it did, they were repaired according to current construction standards. At the same time, the deadline for applications was pushed back to May 31. According to Filoxenia ’04, the rental program is a low-cost alternative for visitors, given the inability of Athens hotels to cater for all visitors. The whole accommodation package includes transfer from and to the airport, transport to Olympic venues with special buses, tours and excursions, a 24-hour call center and housecleaning services. Also, Filoxenia ’04 offers clients the opportunity to enter a draw for 300 tickets to the opening ceremony and an equal number to the closing ceremony. Homes are sorted into four categories (A, B, C and «luxury homes») according to year and quality of construction and furnishing and proximity to the competition venues and the city center. Homeowners receive 35-40 euros per person per day for a ‘C’ category home, 70 euros for a ‘B’ home and 90 euros for a home in category ‘A’. For «luxury homes,» the rental figure is set after negotiation.