Investors and tourists increasingly turning to Greek holiday resorts

Greece holds the top spot among 28 tourism destinations in the world with 67 percent of tourists saying that this country is the most attractive place for vacations, according to a survey by the German tour operator TUI, presented yesterday at the 11th Thessaloniki Forum. The 2006 data, presented by TUI international relations director, Guenter Ihlau, showed that 70 percent of visitors to Greece come from Europe, with Germans, British and Italians comprising half of all tourists. Northern Greece, in particular, may have seen relatively few visitors in the 1995-2002 period, but rebounded with a 15 percent increase in 2003-2006. Estimates by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), presented by British journalist Robert McDonald, showed that tourism contributed 34 billion euros or 17.5 percent to Greece’s gross domestic product. It also provided 16 percent of jobs. However, the long-term forecasts of the international organization show the arrivals growth rate slowing to 4 percent per year in the next decade. «While Greece enjoys occupancy rates of 70 to 90 percent in the summer, neighboring Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia are competitive with rates between 40 and 50 percent. Already the basic clientele of Greece is turning toward those countries,» warned McDonald. Crucially, considerable investments in Greek tourism are planned, he added, revealing that foreign investors are preparing projects worth a total -3.5 billion for the creation of resort complexes, while five foreign venture capital funds have penciled in another -1.5 billion for similar projects. Ihlau, as well as easyJet head Stelios Hadji-Ioannou, urged Greece to turn to the construction of its brand, to become more recognizable and to diversify its tourism product on offer, placing emphasis on sustainable tourism development and infrastructures. Hadji-Ioannou further proposed a lowering of airport tax in Greece, as this would immediately boost the number of arrivals, while announcing that easyCruise will operate a second cruise ship from Piraeus to the islands from next year. The new vessel will be twice as big as the one already operating, having 500 berths. The head of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises, Stavros Andreadis, called for Thessaloniki to acquire an «identity» so as to become instantly recognizable abroad, as in Europe it is largely unknown. Positive prospects Tourism Development Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia and the local tourism industry agreed at yesterday’s National Tourism Council that this year will see another rise. The minister reiterated that Greece is expected to receive more tourists than ever before in 2007 and said that inflows of foreign exchange from tourism grew in May. On the occasion of International Environment Day, Palli-Petralia asked hoteliers to show sensitivity regarding its protection: «Pollution kills tourism,» she said, announcing the establishment of a new award for hotels that use new energy forms and do not pollute the environment. The minister will also propose that environmentally sensitive hotels also enjoy financial privileges, too. Andreas Andreadis, the president of the Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers (POX), cited specific May data showing a general rise in occupancy. He said the Ionian Islands are full, Athens is going well and Thessaloniki is high in bookings. Only Crete is marginally lower than last year.

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