ECONOMY

Tourism needs works

The tourism market calls for an acceleration of the implementation of public investment to the benefit of Greek tourism, notes the president of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE), Stavros Andreadis. «There is no point in investing in tourism installations (hotels, conference centers etc) unless destinations can be decently served by our airports and other complementary public infrastructures,» he told Kathimerini. He spoke ahead of the annual conference of SETE, today and tomorrow, on «Tourism and Development.» The conference will include contributions from representatives of international organizations (World Tourism Organization, International Hotel & Restaurant Association, Turkish Tourism Investors Association, and the World Bank Group), of universities (George Washington University, Athens University of Economics and Business, and the University of Patras) and of major tourism corporations (EasyGroup, IMG, Starwood), who will discuss international experience and the orientation of tourism investment in Greece. Andreadis argues that the investment climate in Greece is not ideal, even though interest has been rekindled for realizing investment plans. He says the private sector may have responded to the government’s call for investment in tourism by taking a significant risk yet the risk of investments losing their value still looms due to the delay or inability to realize public investments. Recent data from the Economy and Tourism Development ministries show that tourism investments following the new investment incentives law correspond to 37 percent of the whole, confirming investors’ interest in tourism. The SETE head stresses how positively economists perceive that. On the other hand, the recent edition of the World Bank’s «Doing Business» publication, which records developments in the economies of 175 countries, brings Greece to the 109th spot in the «Ease of Doing Business» category. The World Bank’s data also show that in the 2000-2005 period Greece was last among the EU-25 regarding the level of foreign direct investments as a percentage of gross domestic product. Using this data, Andreadis wonders «what is the point of inviting foreign investors, either through road shows by government ministers or by communicating our economy’s extroverted character at every opportunity, when we obtain the 109th spot in the Ease of Doing Business category?» He also said Greece will never manage to attract foreign investment when the state (or part of it) remains hooked on the petty interests of organized minorities which hampers the development of entrepreneurship and harms free competition, with negative consequences for everyone. Now the government must realize the prime minister’s orders for daring reforms in the tourism sector, says Andreadis. If the investment climate improves and the funds on tourism from the EU-sponsored Community Support Framework IV are adjusted to the new requirements of the global tourism market, it is possible for Greece to set a target of 26 million foreign tourists for 2015. The issues to be discussed in the conference could be used to form the tourism program in the context of the CSF IV period (2007-2013). The conference will examine how globalization affects the drafting of national policies on tourism investment as well as the significance of energy developments and climate and demographic changes in tourism. Other topics include examining how new technologies and changes in consumer behavior will affect the investment landscape. Investment trends in tourism internationally, taking into account quality upgrade and financial yield criteria for destinations, show that alternative forms of tourism – such as sports, conference and educational – will rank high in interest. These trends will be a focus point in the effort to create incentives for bolstering entrepreneurship in tourism.