ECONOMY

Tourism set to stagnate next year

Tourist arrivals in 2002 are expected to remain stagnant at this year’s levels but should make a strong recovery in the subsequent years due to the 2004 Olympic Games, the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) predicted yesterday. SETE Vice President Nikos Angelopoulos told reporters that Athens has been hit hard by the sharp drop in tourist arrivals following the September 11 events, compounding the traditional decline in winter tourism. There has been a freeze on tourist arrivals after the attacks in the USA. We will probably see next year’s arrivals approaching this year’s levels, he said. The State’s lack of action has also hurt the industry. Angelopoulos said the government has failed to implement measures to revive the tourism sector in the wake of September 11, while the tourist authorities appear not to be functioning at all. He said that tourist operators were being pressured to cut rates for the summer of 2002 even before the winter season has ended. We have seen a deluge of canceled deposits and bookings from all markets, the SETE vice president said. Despite this ominous sign, he urged tourist operators not to panic, saying that it is premature now to offer discounts. Statistics in recent years showed that tourists tend to delay their bookings as the number of Mediterranean destinations has grown. Angelopoulos also proposed measures to boost the industry in the long term, among them, the setting up of a body through which tourist operators could voice their opinions and the creation of a tripartite body composed of the government, the private sector and local authorities to promote the tourism sector. It is also equally important that the State increase its budget to develop the industry. SETE plans to hold a conference on tourism and development on February 28, 2002 with the objective of drafting a strategy for the industry.