Tourism industry wants speedy action to stem decline in visitor numbers

The rising value of the euro is one of Greek tourism’s worst foes, denting its competitiveness vis-a-vis other Mediterranean destinations which are thus able to offer better value for money, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) said yesterday. «Beyond the internal price hikes, the price of the Greek tourism product has gone up by an additional 48 percent in the last three years due to the appreciation of the euro against the dollar, compared to the destinations outside the eurozone,» SETE Chairman Stavros Andreadis told a press briefing. He called for speedier government measures in the sector to capitalize on the success of the Olympic Games last summer, warning that initial indications for 2005 do not give rise to much optimism for an upturn in arrivals, which are estimated to end 6 percent down this year. SETE acknowledges that the recently announced investment incentives are indeed bold and promote an improvement in the Greek tourism product but the results will not be immediately visible. «The problems that have accumulated in recent years are so many that they cannot be solved from one day to the next,» said Andreadis. He welcomed the fact the government has devoted 31.9 million euros for the international promotion campaign for next year, which begins on Friday, is much larger than in any other previous year, and that it has hired a specialist firm of consultants for the same purpose. Andreadis made particular reference to the lack of statistical data, which hampers timely and accurate assessments of the situation in the sector every year. SETE wants government initiatives targeting a qualitative upgrading to be extended to the full range of services and include incentives, for instance, for the withdrawal of substandard accommodation facilities. Andreadis said delays in upgrading public infrastructure in the regions have a direct impact on the picture of tourism and added that additional incentives are necessary that will induce the public sector to invest. Cooperation between the public and private sectors is now at a satisfactory level but concrete results require greater resolve and improved coordination and flexibility on the part of the former. ‘Civilized environment’ Separately, Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos told a meeting of senior tourism and regional officials that an additional sum of 15 million euros is being given to regional authorities for tourism promotion campaigns, as part of a drive to bolster the role of the regions in the industry. The regional campaigns, he amplified, will be harmonized with the overall national campaign, putting an end to past waste, when the programs did not clearly define the country’s tourism identity. «Regional mechanisms will be activated and we shall soon see the country’s picture changing for the better: sign-posting, safety markings on roads, cleanliness and tidiness and a civilized environment – that is our goal. Otherwise, any tourism policy will have no substantial result,» said Avramopoulos.