Government’s investment drive to see less red tape for tourism bodies

The government plans to make it easier for tourism organizations to apply for permits as part of a strategy aimed at abolishing disincentives hindering investments in the sector, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said yesterday. «We intend to simplify licensing procedures, whether they are at the Greek National Tourist Organization, the Public Works Ministry or anywhere else,» he said after chairing a meeting of the national tourism council. The minister said the measure would encourage the construction of new hotels, an issue fast gaining urgency due to inadequate accommodation facilities for Olympic officials and dignitaries expected in Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games. Of the 16,000 rooms needed for the Olympic family, only 13,000 have been secured, leaving a shortfall of 3,000 rooms. Tsochadzopoulos said the problem could be easily resolved by appealing to hotels to make more of their capacity available to the Olympic family and by opening public facilities. Referring to the tourism slump in the wake of the September 11 attacks, he said the sector has reported a significant recovery since the start of the year. He said the government plans to give a helping hand to tourism bodies by abolishing marina charges next year. Other measures intended to boost the sector include a heavy advertising campaign targeted at overseas markets and funded to the tune of 10.6 billion drachmas (31 million euros). Tsochadzopoulos said the council also agreed to get the private sector more involved in promotional activities and to mobilize regional and municipal authorities as well. It also agreed to promote other alternative forms of tourism such as convention and sea tourism.

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