Travel agents call for better regulations

Travel agents have introduced a series of proposals on various industry problems in order for tourism to further expand in Greece and for tourists to be better served. The head of the Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies (HATTA), Yiannis Evangelou, believes that the biggest difficulty is the horizontal operation of tourism and the joint responsibility of other bodies apart from the Tourism Development Ministry and the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) in resolving crucial issues. He names as a major priority the reform and modernization of the institutional framework of the tourism bureau sector, particularly on issues such as terms of access to the profession, differentiating tour operators from travel agents, consumer protection and punishment of illegal activity, among others. Another matter requiring immediate attention is the modernization of the legislation on tourist buses in a system resembling the stars allocated to hotels, according to HATTA. The association also believes that certain development incentives must be provided through the European Union-funded Fourth Community Support Framework (CSFIV) of subsidies for the modernization and upgrade of travel agencies in information society and for the creation of incentives for horizontal and vertical tourism networks. HATTA further calls for the creation of a bureau for the promotion of cruising and for a national coordinator of cruise schedules to avoid congestion in Greek ports. Finally, it proposes the creation of national and local offices to promote conference tourism. All reports on hotel unit inspections by the GNTO should be made public, according to the New Democracy deputy for Corfu, Nikos Georgiadis, who tabled a question in Parliament to Tourism Development Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia concerning the publication of the ministry’s report on the inspection of the Corkyra Beach Hotel. Georgiadis also asked the ministry to provide the numbers of how many inspections on buildings, engineering installations and adherence to town planning regulations have been made on hotels in the previous tourism season and the current one. He wants to know about the conclusions of those inspections and what penalties were imposed where due. He suggested that the ministry could publish such reports on a special site on the Internet, where they would be available to everyone.