Healthy rise expected in tourism arrivals in 2005 as Greece cashes in on Olympics and promotion

Tourism arrivals in Greece are set to rise by 5 to 7 percent this year, according to estimates by the Institute of Tourism Research and Forecasts (ITEP) and Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) bureaus across the world. In its «Economy and Tourism» report, ITEP predicts that in 2005 foreign tourist arrivals will rise by 5 to 6 percent from last year, while tourism revenues will increase more modestly than arrivals. The survey found that prospects for 2005 are better for three reasons: The Olympics and the successful advertising campaign have promoted Greece well; Athens has had a decent facelift; and Turkey cannot increase its arrivals as it exhausted its accommodation potential last year with a 27 percent rise. Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos announced yesterday that GNTO offices abroad forecast a 7 percent rise in arrivals, led by the US with a massive 40 percent increase from 2004, and then by Spain (25-28 percent), Australia (25 percent) and Canada (18 percent). Avramopoulos expressed his optimism for Greek tourism, saying it has stabilized and that the next few years will see a rebound and growth as a result of the ministry’s policy. He added that this year charter flights will increase by 40 percent and the number of cruises will double. The minister further announced the establishment of a group of «Tourism Volunteers,» who will offer their services at museums and archaeological sites. This comes in the aftermath of the successful contribution of volunteers at last summer’s Olympics. Formal announcements will be made by the month’s end. Asked how many foreign tourism investments are under way now in Greece, Avramopoulos said there are three or four investments being implemented, worth 200 million euros each. He also stated that the ministry is promoting lifting the saturation status of the number of hotels in certain regions, as well as the replacement of old hotels with new ones. Separate trends Last year was good for tourism as foreign currency revenues rose by 9 percent. This was entirely due to the Olympic Games, with prices and hotel occupancies rising in Athens and possibly in Thessaloniki, the ITEP report suggests. On the contrary, the countryside has suffered a decline of up to 5 percent in overnight stays, while prices not only did not follow inflation but fell. Domestic tourism activity has a «bipolar character,» ITEP claims, and refers to «the dramatic drop in the international competitiveness levels of the Greek tourism product, owing also to the overvaluation of the euro.» The rise of the euro has affected Greece more than its rivals in the Mediterranean, the report asserts. The degree of Greece’s tourism reverse course is not only shown by four years’ continuous decline in arrivals and overnight stays, but also by Greece’s «achievement» of having a decline in arrivals in the global tourism industry’s best year of the last three decades; there was a 10 percent rise internationally last year.