Diversification key to tourism sector

The government called on the tourism industry yesterday to diversify services in a bid to obtain a larger piece of the growing world tourism market as rising sector revenues trail growth in visitor numbers. Tourism Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos pointed out that despite a 6 percent increase in tourist arrivals in Greece this year, money spent by visitors grew by only 3 percent. «Tourism is changing drastically. We need to specialize and diversify on a geographical, economic and social level,» the minister told a conference. Greece’s tourism sector, which accounts for about a fifth of the economy, has been growing steadily after the hosting of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. According to government estimates, annual growth rates between 2004 to 2006 reached an average of 6 percent. However, tourism receipts in 2007 rose by only 3 percent from 11.4 billion euros in 2006. «This highlights the fact that despite three years of growth, Greek tourism has not yet stabilized at high levels of performance,» said SETE, the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises, in a statement. Citing a report prepared by tourism consulting group IPK, SETE said low-quality hotels overcharging for services are among the reasons that have contributed to reduced revenues in the sector. «We do not need more hotels in these categories but the existing ones must substantially improve the level of the equipment and services offered,» SETE added. A lack of online tourism services and a delay in low-cost airlines flying to Greece are also considered as key reasons weighing on growth in tourism receipts. According to industry estimates, tourist arrivals to Greece, a country of 10 million people, are expected to reach 17 million people in 2008, up 6 percent on an annual basis. On a global level, long-term growth prospects are strong with the number of people expected to visit another country in 2020 to double from current rates to 1.5 billion. [email protected]