Revolution required for tourism

Greece needs to tidy up its tourism industry or it risks belying the expectations of foreign visitors in the post-Olympic era, Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos warned yesterday. Speaking at the annual assembly of the Attica Hoteliers Association (EXA), he said the successful staging of the Olympic Games has vastly improved the country’s attractiveness as a destination and three out of four potential tourists declare that they would like to visit Greece. Nevertheless, this will not necessarily be translated into an increase in arrivals and the country needs a «quality revolution» in order to remain competitive. Avramopoulos said the government’s initiatives that will «gradually change the face of Greek tourism» include an upgrading of the picture of Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) bureaus abroad, which he described as «shameful.» He said the Greek tourism promotion campaign abroad, budgeted at 31.9 million euros, will be launched in about 10 days and will culminate in March and April, earlier than any other year. The taekwondo palace on the Athens seaside at Faliron will be turned into a conference center which will open in March, Avramopoulos said in response to hoteliers’ demands. At the same time, a central agency will be set up to promote conference tourism in collaboration with Helexpo, the fair organization. EXA President Yiannis Tsakiris welcomed the new incentives for the hotel industry in the development bill announced on Tuesday and agreed on the need to upgrade GNTO offices. EXA wants the adoption of an array of measures to improve the tourism product, including a better policing of resorts and archeological sites and the removal of brothels from the vicinity of hotels in Athens. 2003 a bad year The average capacity utilization rate of Athens hotels in September took the penultimate spot among European capitals, rising to 64.8 percent from 62.5 percent in the same month last year. According to the Hotel Study 2004, prepared by JBR Hellas – Howarth, the average gross operating profit of Greek hotels fell to 10-15 percent last year from 26 percent in 2002. Labor costs accounted for 48 percent of total expenses, against 42 percent in 2002. The cost of sales was 21 percent. The gross operating profit per available room declined 40 percent in relation to 2002 and 60 percent in relation to 2001.