ECONOMY

Worries for tourism

Already faced with mounting problems, the tourism sector could see a make-or-break situation as a result of the terrorist attacks on the USA last Tuesday. The first repercussions from the strikes are already obvious for the global tourism industry and tourists heading to Greek destinations. The attacks and the method chosen by the terrorists have created a strong sense of concern. Amid this, the industry also has to deal with the possible surge in oil prices, the likelihood of a global recession, the difficulties in air travel and the psychological shock from the terrible pictures of the World Trade Center towers shown worldwide. All these will play a significant role in shaping the industry both in the short term and long term. In Greece, some chartered flights to domestic destinations were canceled. The majority of cancellations were in Athens and were made by a large number of the 250,000 Americans who visit Greece annually. Spyros Divanis, president of the Athens Hotels Association (EXA), told Kathimerini that incoming tourists to Athens were down by 25 percent. Apart from canceled US flights, cancellations from European countries have also been coming in the last few days and concerned October bookings. The biggest blow to the tourist industry is the number of scheduled conferences in Europe which have now been put on temporary hold. The cruise industry has been similarly affected as a significant portion of their business comes from the US market. The fate of the tourist industry in the next session will depend on the US reaction to the terrorist attacks and where it will take place. Traditionally, bookings for next year start in October. The new crisis will now determine this issue. Last Friday, EXA met with Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, Evgenios Yiannakopoulos, president of the Greek National Tourist Organization and the general secretary of the tourism department at the ministry to discuss the latest developments. Hoteliers asked the minister to let them proceed with an evaluation of the costs to the industry of the US crisis and possibly come up with a package of measures. The minister was optimistic that the industry would recover once the situation regains normalcy.