Lack of advertising threatens to make 2002 a bad year for Greek tourism

Two years before the Olympic Games, the Development Ministry and the National Greek Tourism Organization (EOT) are doing little to boost the prospects of Greek tourism in what promises to be a difficult year after the September 11 attacks in the USA. A series of meetings seem to have produced only delayed half-measures. Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, who visited the ITB expo in Berlin last week, appeared ill informed on numerous major issues affecting the sector, which might partly explain the lack of depth in handling the effects of the crisis. This is despite the fact that the minister has a large staff of advisers compared to his predecessor, Nikos Christodoulakis. Apart from this, the experience of many senior staff in EOT bureaus abroad has been left untapped, while key sections of the organization in Athens are undermanned. Nevertheless, past crises have been dealt with successfully, the most recent example being the war in Yugoslavia three years ago, which left Greek tourism intact after substantial measures were taken. It should be clear by now that it is not enough to set up an attractive pavilion at such an important expo as ITB – which has traditionally been considered the barometer for the industry in many countries. This should be supplementary to a comprehensive promotion and advertising campaign. Egypt and Turkey for instance, despite being in a more disadvantaged position than Greece for a number of reasons, adopted flexible mechanisms in order to counter or limit the prospect of losses. Security concerns Egypt in particular, whose biggest problem is perhaps the security concerns of many German tourists, has managed, according to the largest tour operators in Germany, to curb the decline in bookings to about 20 percent from about 40-45 percent two months ago, with an especially dynamic and focused advertising campaign. Turkey has registered increases in the numbers of its German visitors over the last two years. In 2001, it attracted 3 million of them, against Greece’s 2.5 million, and a rise is projected again for 2002. It is worth noting that in a survey on the degree of security in various tourist destinations, carried out in Germany October 10-31, 2001 in a sample of 3,000 people, Greece drew 68-percent positive responses, against 23 percent for Turkey’s and 12 percent for Egypt. During contacts with representatives of German tour operators, Tsochadzopoulos said Greek tourist enterprises would not accept reducing their prices. This appeared untimely, as Greek tourism’s competitors have already done so, at a time when the economic recession was having a direct impact on the industry. Germany’s economic growth rate last year was the lowest since the country’s reunification. GDP grew 0.6 percent at constant prices, against initial projections of 2.5-3 percent. Unemployment reached 9.45 percent. Lack of advertising EOT officials in Germany take the view that, particularly at this time of crisis, Greece should have already begun to confirm and reinforce the country’s image as a tranquil, attractive and secure destination. The lack of such a campaign is expected to seriously affect demand. It should be both focused and aggressive, and addressed to as broad a section of the German public as possible, they say. Further, they argue that the option exercised for advertising on international television media such as CNN will be ineffective in Germany, where viewing figures range from 0.01 to 1 percent. The officials believe that an effective campaign should also include an intensification of public relations exercises and joint advertising spots with German tour operators. Without such measures, demand for Greece as a tourist destination in Germany is projected to fall by about 5-10 percent this year. Already, bookings for Greece with the largest German tour operators are down between 5 and 25 percent. The main destinations seem badly hit but smaller operators, specializing in offbeat destinations, show small increases in bookings of 3-5 percent. According to the Bundesbank, Greece received 1.5 billion euros in foreign exchange from tourism from Germany in 2001, exactly the same as in 2000, while Spain’s rose from 7.8 billion euros to 8 billion, despite fewer tourists last year. Turkey’s tourism receipts from Germany rose from 900 million euros in 2000 to 1.4 billion last year and Italy’s from 7.3 billion to 8.7 billion euros.

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