ECONOMY

Tourism industry looks like recovering soon

Dreams of an Olympic bonanza long forgotten, Greece’s key tourism sector now hopes international praise for the hosts and a post-Games bounce will herald a better season next year. Security concerns, high prices and a failure to use the Olympics to add luster to Greece’s sun-and-sea image pushed foreign arrivals down 12 percent in July ahead of the Games, dashing hopes for a Games-inspired boom. The industry has pretty much written this year off, expecting a third straight annual drop in arrivals. But since the Games got under way to rave reviews, more people began pouring in and bookings for months ahead have picked up. «The Games are running smoothly, everything is going smoothly, this has given Greece a good image,» Yiannis Evangelou, head of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies, said. Evangelou said bookings for September and October were up 10 percent over the same period last year. Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said investments made in the runup to the Games should pay off in months and years after the August 13-29 event, and it was not unusual for tourists to avoid host countries in Olympic years. «The psychology of a tourist is different from that of a spectator. They get discouraged by Olympics, but a rise in bookings for September makes us more optimistic,» Avramopoulos told a news conference. George Drakopoulos, managing director at Greek tourism industry umbrella group SETE, said: «We’ve had less demand, but after the Olympics we should see more tourists. If everything goes well with the organization, as I expect, we will have a good year ahead.» Greece had 12 million visitors last year, more than its 11 million population. Tourism employs about 800,000 people and makes up 18 percent of its economy. The conservative government wants to double this within a decade, but since the adoption of the euro in 2001 the country has struggled to hold ground against cheaper Mediterranean competitors such as Turkey. Tourism promotion money to go up tenfold Greece will spend more than 30 million euros on the promotion of its tourism industry next year – about 10 times what any previous government did, the president of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO), Haris Kokkosis, said yesterday. Speaking at the Athens Business Club 2004 on the subject of «Investment Opportunities in the Tourist Sector,» he said the GNTO’s main advertising campaign will be accompanied by focused marketing initiatives, directed at the promotion of niche markets, such as conference tourism. The GNTO, he added, is also promoting Greece as a choice destination for new investment and plans to create close partnerships with private entrepreneurs to develop the industry. Kokkosis said the Greek government will thrash out new programs for upgrading tourist facilities, seek to attract investors to new development schemes, and enhance the tourism product by focusing on new destinations. «We aim at developing alternative, quality, and sustainable tourist products which will be characteristic of Greece’s national identity.»