Tourism not hurt by OA, for now

Greek tourism will not be affected during the festive season by developments involving Olympic Airlines (OA), said Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos yesterday, following his meeting with the prime minister. However, it remains unknown what consequences there may be next summer should developments regarding the operation of the company become negative. In view of this, the minister urged caution, although he defended the government’s handling of the airline problem. «Taxpayers’ money should be considered, as well as the symbolic and actual value of the national carrier,» said Spiliotopoulos. He added that the flow of tourism over the winter appears to be positive but that the commotion arising from the Olympic issue does not help the Greek tourism product. Planning for the next summer season has taken for granted the operation of Olympic, noted the minister. Spiliotopoulos said that during his meeting with Costas Karamanlis, they had discussed issues relating to next year’s tourism policy. The main aim remains the generation of revenue through tourism, with emphasis placed on the quality of the services offered and of the visitors attracted. Greece will also develop pilot programs such as agritourism and green tourism, and create specialized tourism products addressed to specific needs of potential visitors to this country. Meanwhile, the airline’s 22 employee unions met yesterday to decide on their future action, suggesting that they will not allow Pantheon (set up two years ago to facilitate the privatization of OA), which they dubbed a «freak» of a company, to put an end to the long history of Olympic Airlines. They agreed to respond to any decision that changes the status of Olympic with coordinated action. Sources suggest that the Transport Ministry is aiming to create a new, totally private airline, although this is virtually impossible, so the most likely outcome will be a mixed solution involving both the state and private investors.