Tourism on the rebound

Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos yesterday emerged confident that broad changes in government policy for the sector will bring about a recovery. «We are moving in the right direction… We are ahead in grasping the new international reality. Greece has consistently been a reliable tourism destination; we are now staging our quality revolution,» he said after contracts on the sidelines of the World Travel Market exhibition in London. Avramopoulos and his deputy, Anastassios Liaskos, held meetings with tour operators, Chairman of the Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT) Steven Freudmann and the president of the International Federation of Tour Operators (IFTO), Martin Brackenbury. Speaking after his meeting with Brackenbury, Avramopoulos stressed that the positive messages will materialize only if measures that have been announced are implemented. «Our meetings and contacts allow us to obtain a complete picture of global tourism. Mr Brackenbury’s experience assists us in drawing up a strategy in order to differentiate our tourism product while remaining a main destination.» Officials seem to be coming round to the view that the era of Greek improvisation is over and that a long-term strategy is evolving. «In 2005, you will see the first recovery signs, but the significant rise will come in the next few years when the results of your new policy become evident,» said Brackenbury, adding that for tour operators, Greece is the second most important destination after Spain. Freudmann of the ITT said that Greece and Spain are the main destinations touted. The positive climate is underscored by the ITT’s decision to hold its 2006 conference in Greece. Freudmann signaled, though, that Greece’s main objective ought to be offering visitors easy access with direct flights to its destinations. «We warmly support the new Greek efforts and are happy that the minister views us as partners,» he said. Exhibition officials estimated that only about 9 percent of bookings for 2005 had been completed. Spain, despite its particularly impressive presence at the exhibition, is showing a decline in bookings from the UK. Avramopoulos also announced giving priority to important markets to Greek tourism, such as the United States. To this end, he will be in Los Angeles next week. Advertising in the US market will intensify and new tourism offices will open in American cities where deemed necessary. He further mentioned investor interest in Greece after the Olympics and noted that in a recent survey abroad 70 percent of people questioned expressed their wish to visit Greece. Liaskos said that Greece’s post-Olympic target is to become a dynamic destination for exhibitions and conferences, to attract international sporting events and consolidate Athens and other big cities as tourism destinations in the international collective conscience by illustrating their unique characteristics. The Greek presence at the World Travel Market, which ends tomorrow, is considerably more prominent compared to other years. Besides being the brand partner, there is a huge banner at the entrance inviting British tourists to Greece; a privilege that Turkey used to have. Today, Avramopoulos is to attend a forum by the British-Hellenic Chamber on investments in Greece, and will meet with the Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee.