ECONOMY

Greece to tender tourism assets to pay down debt

Greece will launch tenders to lease hotels, golf courses, a marina and a casino in an effort to boost public revenues and upgrade its tourism, Greece’s Tourism Development Company (ETA) said yesterday. The government hopes private investors will inject new life into tourist properties under the state’s real estate management arm, ETA, which is in charge of 360 mostly neglected assets. «Leasing all these assets to private investors will benefit the Greek state, sparing it from high operation and maintenance costs,» Constantinos Zacharopoulos, ETA’s managing director, told Reuters in an interview. Most of ETA’s assets have either fallen into neglect or operate below full capacity and the government hopes long-term leases to private investors will help to reduce Greece’s public debt, which stood at 107.5 percent of GDP in 2005, well above the eurozone’s average ratio of 70.8 percent. «The tender offer for at least a 30-year lease agreement for a marina in the southern Athens suburb of Faliron is expected at the end of September,» Zacharopoulos said. ETA was also expected to put on the market a 12-year license for Corfu’s sole casino and a 30-year lease for four abandoned hotels in various parts of Greece by October. The tenders for two of the hotels will be announced this week, he said. Golf courses Next year, ETA also plans to launch a tender for an 80-year lease of a golf course in Rhodes. Investors will be invited to revamp it and build a four-star hotel and holiday homes on the same plot, Zacharopoulos said. Another seaside property of roughly 500 acres (200 hectares) at Anavyssos, a tourist resort south of Athens, will be put on the market to be developed as a golf resort. The golf course tenders were pushed to next year due to delays in passing a law giving investors incentives to build and operate holiday homes along with golf courses. Investors have said golf courses should be associated with real estate development to make the investment viable. So far, foreign investors have shunned the country’s tourism sector, saying they are deterred by bureaucracy. There are also environmental concerns about water consumption in the dry, Mediterranean country. However, tourism accounts for about 18 percent of GDP and roughly one in five jobs, and the pro-business government wants to attract wealthier tourists with golf, yachting and spa resorts. Zacharopoulos said the tenders were seen as driving ETA’s profits up 15-20 percent this year. Last year, ETA came out of the red, posting a pretax profit of 8 million euros compared with a loss of 13.5 million euros in 2004. It paid a 2.8-million-euro dividend to the state. «Next year, the dividend will be at least equivalent to that,» Zacharopoulos said. «Our strategic plans include ETA’s listing on the bourse in three years.»