The State has allocated a budget of 10.6 billion drachmas for advertising and promoting Greece globally this year, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said yesterday, noting that the 77-percent increase in spending was necessary in the wake of the September 11 events in the USA and the long-time neglect of major tourist markets. In common with other countries, Greece saw a major drop in tourist arrivals last year as the world tourism industry went into a tailspin following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the acceleration of a global recession. Tour operators claimed that high charges levied by the new airport at Spata restricted growth as well. The minister said that nearly a third of the budget – 3 billion drachmas – will be used to finance advertising campaigns targeted at the European market, which contributes the bulk of tourists visiting Greece. Two billion drachmas will go toward the US market, with the focus on conference tourism. «In the past years, the US market has been significantly downgraded. I remember 1985 was the last major year for Greece with respect to US tourists,» Tsochadzopoulos said. This year’s advertising campaign is due to kick off on January 15 with a series of TV spots on CNN, Euronews and Eurosports and other international TV stations. The second leg of the advertising drive will concentrate on the European market and will start on February 15. The 10.6-billion-drachma outlay also includes a subsidy of 40 euros for incoming tourists given to local tour operators and which is expected to cost a total of 1.5 billion drachmas. On the proposed star classification system for hotels, Tsochadzopoulos said the Council of State has overridden hoteliers’ opposition to the scheme. He also confirmed plans to list ETA, the tourism asset management arm of the Greek National Tourist Organization, on the stock market this year.