ECONOMY

Expensive Athens hotels?

Athenian hoteliers were exonerated of accusations of asking for exorbitant prices during this Olympic year by the results of a Pan-European survey obtained by Kathimerini. According to the survey, average prices of hotels in Athens in the first half of the year were lower even than those in Istanbul, which were considered competitive. About 90 percent of available hotel rooms in Athens in the peak month of August were reserved three years ago at specified prices by Athens 2004, the organizers of the Olympic Games, providing evidence that any reported cases of profiteering have been no more than isolated occurrences. Additionally, data supplied by the Attica Hoteliers’ Association and research company JBR Hellas show hotel rate increases in Athens have been limited in comparison with those registered in similar facilities in other European capitals. Athenian hotels are actually tailing those in all other European capitals in the income per available room index. The average occupancy rate in hotels in Attica in the first half of the year fell by 0.6 percent in comparison with the same period of 2003. Elsewhere in Europe, occupancy rates were drastically affected during the first half only in Madrid and Barcelona, by 6.5 and 3.3 percent respectively, mainly affected by the bloody terrorist attack on March 11. On the contrary, hotels in Istanbul seem to be enjoying an excellent year, with the city’s hotel prices having risen by 13.2 percent and occupancy rates up 29 percent. The increase of their income per available room is even more impressive, approaching 46 percent. The survey also shows that hotel room rate rises in London, Paris and Berlin have been much higher since the beginning of the year than those registered in the Athenian Olympic hotels. According to George Tsakiris, president of the Attica Hoteliers Association, hotels in the region have a total capacity of 62,000 beds, of which 6,000 were added in the last few years in preparation for the Olympics, while another 15,000 are in completely renovated facilities. A large percentage of the renovations took place in B, C and D class hotels, which are now able to compete for customers with higher-rated facilities. The total sum invested in the modernization and construction of new hotels in Attica in view of the Olympic Games is estimated at around 1 billion euros, of which 400 million was for completely new units. The vast majority of renovation projects was not subsidized in any manner or form with public money. Luxury hotels in Attica are now boasting a capacity of about 15,000 beds. According to Tsakiris, after their renovations, the rates of hotels in the Greek capital are now about at the levels they deserve to charge, which nevertheless remain lower than those charged by comparable facilities in other European capitals.