Arrival figures from the US have shown clear signs of picking up since the Athens Olympics in August 2004, and Greek-American travel agents report that tourism from the US is expected to peak in the next two years. Already there are increased flight bookings for 2006, while agents predict the rapid flow will continue into 2007. Yiannis Evangelou, head of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies, told Kathimerini that this increase will top 20 percent in 2006 yearly. «We already have the first positive indications, as flights from America to Greece and the other way round are all fully booked from April to October 2006. What is more, Delta [Airlines] has decided to start direct scheduled flights from Atlanta to Athens,» he said. The new Greek National Tourism Organization offices in Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles are set to bolster the promotion of the Greek tourism product in the US and therefore increase the flow of Americans visiting Greece. The US Daily News publication also notes that due to terrorism in Turkey, tourism from the US to that country has declined by 50 percent in the last four years, although from 2004 to 2005 it showed a 25 percent rise. Singing a different tune, the president of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) Stavros Andreadis referred to a «short-lived spring of Greek tourism» and to imbalances noted in the overall government effort in tourism. «Despite the 4.7 percent rise in arrivals and 7.4 percent rise in revenues from January-September 2005 year on year,» he said, tourism needs «essential measures to improve our services and products.» He called 2006 a highly competitive year, adding that performance in any year depends mostly on preparation two to five years earlier and less on coincidental factors. Last month, Andreadis was reported as branding «coincidental» the rise in Greek tourism, although he later refuted it. Global distinctions Greece’s present image now appears particularly attractive to the traveling public in the US. «Recent statements have confirmed the strong interest expressed by the US market through polls by travel magazines, which include Myconos, Santorini and the Cyclades in general as among the most interesting destinations,» noted Evangelou, adding that «Santorini earned the Best Island in Europe award from Travel and Leisure magazine in New York, while the readers of Travel Air, from the New York Times, have chosen the Cyclades as the best complex of islands in Europe.» The Aegean Sea is not the only one capturing foreign travelers’ imagination, as the Ionian Islands were voted second in the world in terms of beaches. According to a recent poll on the Lonely Planet travel guides’ Internet site, the best beaches in the world are those of the Maldives, with the Ionian Islands coming in second. These are followed by the Marshall Islands, the British Virgin Islands and the Seychelles. Ionian beaches have also earned distinctions in the past: Lefkada’s Porto Katsiki and Kathisma, and Cephalonia’s Myrtos have all made the list of the top 10 beaches.