Athens hotels report full house, at last

Relieved Athens hoteliers reported peak capacity after a surge in last-minute bookings from tourists abroad, encouraged by slashed prices. «We have reached 95 percent capacity,» the president of Athens hotel owners’ union EXA, Giorgos Tsiakiris, told AFP. «This may be normal for Olympics, but compared with where we stood last month, it is much, much better,» Tsiakiris said. According to EXA figures for June, average occupancy rates in the Greek capital’s greater area hotels of three stars and above was only around 50 percent – the same level as the same month last year and 10 percent down from 2002. «Many people decided to come in the last four weeks,» Tsiakiris said. «The timely completion of Olympic projects and the shift of the negative attitude toward Athens in the foreign press helped,» Tsiakiris said. As if touched by a magic wand, the Greek capital’s center suddenly filled with foreigners on the eve of Friday’s opening ceremony. Groups of Italian teenagers made the Mexican wave in Athens’s central Syntagma Sq, reflecting the feverish anticipation in the countdown to Saturday. Now Athens’s hoteliers hope that the hundreds of millions of euros they poured into upgrading their establishments will not be totally lost. Many have given up plans of charging three times the normal rate for an overnight stay during the Olympics, instead slashing prices to fill their establishments. «Prices are not engraved in stone. Offer was just greater than demand,» Tsiakiris said. «It was all so expensive at the beginning. But then we found something cheap for just 50 euros ($60) for two people a night,» said German Alexander Jung who booked rooms two months ago. But more guests also mean more complaints. Greece’s largest consumer group, INKA, said Wednesday complaints about hotels have increased in recent days. (AFP)

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