ECONOMY

Turkey’s tourism rises over 40 pct, while Olympics hosts see drop

The Olympics may be taking place in Athens but it is neighboring Turkey’s tourism market that seems to be breaking records, one after the other. Turkish tourism is obviously benefiting from policies applied during the last few years, yielding impressive results in attracting foreign investment as well as lifting the tourist image of the country abroad. Updated figures show a full 44.7 percent increase in the number of arrivals during the first half of the year in comparison with the same period in 2003, with the June figure standing at 26.6 percent. Turkish officials and tourism industry operators say this is the country’s best ever year. Certainly, if the trend does not abate, this will be the first year that the number of tourists visiting the neighboring country will overtake the number of arrivals in Greece. Turkey was visited by 6.7 foreign tourists during the first half of the year, while tourist receipts also rose impressively in the period. For Turkey, Germany is the main source of visitors, accounting for 356,624 arrivals in June. Russia was the second biggest, with 236,640 arrivals – a number about equal to the number of tourists arriving in Greece from Russia during the entire calendar year. Britain followed third, with 191,642 arrivals. It is also impressive that Turkey’s tourism industry did well last year, despite the negative international environment. Greek resorts hit Besides the increasing number of visitors to Athens and the wider area of Attica, which is certainly a result of attendance at the Olympics, foreign arrivals are down in the rest of the country, in almost all regional airports. The highest drop the January-June period registered was in Corfu, with 9.4 percent fewer arrivals in the period, followed by Rhodes, where 6.1 percent fewer visitors arrived and Iraklion, Crete, with 5 percent fewer arrivals. Meanwhile, investment in the Turkish tourism market continues to attract a great deal of interest, especially in new tourism projects on Turkey’s Aegean coast. By comparison, tourism investment in Greece has been marred during the last few years by red tape, leading to delays and the disappointment of investors. According to Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, the Greek government is now willing to offer substantial incentives in order to attract investment in the tourism sector. The ministers have said they favor stronger promotion of the Greek tourist product abroad, tapping of the new interest in the country as a result of the Olympics, the creation of a friendlier investment environment and cutting red tape as keys to the success of a new initiative.