Tourism industry wants airport tax cuts, improved promotion

The municipal authorities of the Saronic Gulf tourist islands of Aegina, Poros, Hydra and Spetses yesterday made a joint appeal for a reduction in usage charges and more charter flights to Athens airport to boost the industry. Officials presented at a press briefing data from a survey by the Hospitality & Tourism company, showing that among 40 selected airports in Europe and the Mediterranean, Athens rates sixth in the taxes imposed. The Eleftherios Venizelos Airport takes the same spot in usage charges. Comparing Athens’s charges with its major competitors, the Greek capital’s airport is 44 percent more expensive than Barcelona/Madrid, 75 percent more than Istanbul and 230 percent more than Rome/Milan. As a result, the association said, charter flights to Athens have dropped dramatically, shrinking by 69.5 percent in 2002-2003. The president of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (HATTA), Yiannis Evangelou, noted that a second airport in greater Athens would be useful. Occupancy rates fall November 2004 saw a considerable decline in occupancy at Athens hotels of all categories, compared with the same month in 2003, according to the Athens Hotel Association (EXA). In some categories, the drop exceeds 25 percent. Five-star hotel occupancy was at 39.42 percent from 45.44 percent in November 2003, four-star hotels had 39.02 percent from 55.03 percent, three-star ones had 35.89 percent from 45.35 percent and two-star hotels had 30.42 percent occupancy from 40.99 percent. EXA suggests that «in Attica the decline is the effect of the lack of any kind of program to develop and take advantage of the Athens Olympics in the post-Olympic period» and calls for the development of alternative forms of tourism and the differentiation and specialization of tourism products of Attica from those of the rest of the country. Proposals center on making Athens a weekend city break and conference destination. They, too, asked for a reduction in airport taxes. Separately, following a meeting with Deputy Tourism Minister Anastassios Liaskos, the Hellenic Federation of Tourism Enterprises said it asked for the speeding up of the country’s global promotion campaign and for the new stadiums to open to visitors, after being seen by billions during the Olympics. Liaskos, the federation said, promised to arrange for the already delayed subsidy for tour buses to be disbursed.