High hopes for tourism

Aspiring investors in Greece’s tourism industry will at last be be able to plan their schemes with much greater certainty, as a result of the first ever investment charter, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said yesterday. «Our tourism industry is acquiring for the first time a targeted communication strategy and a special zoning plan,» he told the First Panhellenic Forum «Tourism Charter 2007.» He said the charter greatly helps investors to decide where and in which sector to invest, as well as securing transparency and clarity in the terms of the undertakings. Karamanlis said tapping the potential of the country’s tourism industry is one of the government’s top priorities. «Tourism is par excellence the industry of decentralization, of sustainable and balanced development. It is one of the strongest tools we have for evening out regional inequalities, bolstering a large number of related economic sectors and diffusing prosperity throughout the country and society,» he said. Addressing the same event, Tourism Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia announced the creation of a 35-kilometer promenade and cycling route along the capital’s southern coast, running from the Peace and Friendship Stadium to Varkiza. She also said the 2007 tourist season looked more upbeat then ever. «We cannot stand by and watch the trains of development pass… Greece has to become a 12-month destination,» she said. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas noted that the absorption of investment subsidies in tourism under the EU-sponsored Competitiveness program rose from just 8 percent in March 2004, when the government took office, to 70 percent in December 2006. More than 6,050 investment schemes in tourism have been approved under the program, their budgets totaling -780 million. He added that government advertising outlays for Greek tourism have risen by about 400 percent in the last three years. Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas focused on efforts to develop golf courses in Greece, which he said will be made possible with the introduction of the general zoning plan. He noted that whereas Spain, Ireland and South Africa have about 400 golf courses each, Greece has only six.