Gov’t says era of lost opportunities in tourism is over

Foreign visitors often find Greek tourism destinations congested and lacking in environmental care but such negative factors appear to be largely offset by an appreciation of the friendliness and hospitality of the locals, according to a survey presented yesterday. The report, titled «An Analysis of the Competitiveness Indicators in Mediterranean Destinations,» dealt with resorts in Greece, Spain, Turkey, Egypt, Croatia, Cyprus and Portugal and was presented at the «Tourism and Development» conference of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE). Five percent of visitors expressed dissatisfaction with Athens, 7 percent with Zakynthos and 4 percent with Iraklion, Crete. Greek destinations were found to have no clear direct competitors; only 13 percent of tourists considered Rome and Barcelona as alternatives to Athens. Greece appears to suffer from underinvestment in hotels; about 77 percent of them are more than 20 years old, while only 15 percent belong to or are grouped in with chains; 66 percent of Greek hotels belong to the one- and two-star categories. Deputy Tourism Minister Anastassios Liaskos told the conference that the era of missed opportunities for Greek tourism is definitely coming to an end thanks to a radical policy reorientation which will address chronic problems. He said legislation now in the works will set new priorities for tourism development in zoning regulations, and lift geographic restrictions on the building of four- and five-star hotels. Other arrangements will facilitate the issuing of licenses and promote grants for alternative forms of tourism. Through the Greek Cuisine program, entrepreneurs will be certified with a special sign of the Greek National Tourism Organization and receive grants for upgrading their units. There will also be promotion of sports and cultural events in Greece.