Contrary to what many people believe, hotel rates in the greater area of the Greek capital are still among the lowest in Europe, despite certain benefits reaped from the publicity of the 2004 Olympic Games, according to a study commissioned by the Athens-Attica Hoteliers’ Association (AAHA). The average annual rise in Athens hotel rates has been between three and five times less than the European average in recent years and well below the average rise in operating expenses, the study shows. In the January-October 2007 period, Attica hotel rates were the second lowest in Europe, corresponding to 65 percent of the European average. Low occupancy The average occupancy rate of Attica hotels fell in the year after the Olympics, but rose 10 percent in 2006 and 4 percent this year. The significant rise in 2006 was no doubt largely the result of the publicity gained from the Olympic Games, but even in that year the average occupancy rate of Attica hotels remained about 4-5 percent lower than the European average. AAHA is seriously concerned at the occupancy rates recorded in September and October in relation to the same period of the previous year. According to officials, the low demand has confirmed fears of a significant downturn in the winter months. AAHA President Giorgos Tsakiris notes that the competitiveness of the Attica tourism product remains desperately low, despite the fact that hotel services are of a particularly high quality. This is mainly due to shortcomings in organization and promotion and the ongoing indecision dogging plans for the construction of a convention center at the Olympic tae-kwon-do indoor stadium at Faliron. AAHA says clear commitments and timetables are required to have the convention center up and running within reasonable time. Given that large conferences of the type that Athens hopes to attract are planned years in advance, in conjunction with efforts to make Athens an attractive city break destination, it is clear that no more time must be lost, it argues. «The lack of a conference center has had an undoubtedly negative impact on all actions aimed at promoting Attica in international markets,» Tsakiris says.