ECONOMY

Hoteliers want laxer regulations

Big names in the Greek hotel industry are reportedly losing sleep over recent official confirmations of several zoning law violations during past hotel construction. The reports, most of which concern hotels on the island of Rhodes, include considerable evidence of encroachment of public land. To be sure, more than 40 percent of Greek hotels, an estimated 3,500 out of a total of 8,500, are more or less in violation of zoning regulations. The problem got especially worse after 1994, when cash-strapped governments started legalizing violators at a price and ignoring the accumulated problems which their aberrations had caused. But even the recording of those violations was eventually stuffed deep into ministerial drawers. As the situation stands today, there aren’t many realistic solutions. The demolition of so many errant hotels would obviously have a heavy impact on Greek tourism. The most reasonable arrangement seems to be a blanket solution not tailored to the specifics of the few, as often happens, but which would put a definitive end to the «half-legal» logic which prevailed in the industry after 1994. The Tourism Ministry is reported to be in favor of such a scheme. The Panhellenic Hoteliers’ Association (POX) has submitted a number of proposals which include: – Legalization of low-grade transgressions of building specification limits and some cases of arbitrary changes in land-use designations. – Hotels outside town zones should be allowed to increase their communal areas by up to 25 percent beyond the specifications laid by the Greek National Tourism Organization, without this counting toward their total space or built area. This should improve services without increasing capacity; car parks outside hotels entrances should be banned. – Hotels operating for more than 25 years should be allowed to change their designated use. It is argued that this measure would help bring about a substantial renewal of hotel facilities in many areas and upgrade the quality of services. – A relaxation of strict hygiene regulations regarding swimming pools which are antiquated and impractical. – The minimum height for hotels inside and outside town zones should be set at 11.5 meters, where there are no special grounds for protecting the cultural or architectural heritage of a place.