ECONOMY

Good Christmas business for winter resorts across Greece

The cold but favorable weather conditions that prevailed during the 2007 Christmas holidays have helped hotels and accommodation businesses in winter resorts to make good profits, unlike a year earlier. In 2006, the extended summer-like weather prevented many people from opting for skiing holidays, apart from those regions with some snow to offer visitors. Kathimerini spoke to a number of local representatives regarding the tourism business in the 2007 Christmas period. In Evrytania, central Greece, over the 2007 Christmas holiday season, the rate of occupancy in local hotels rose to nearly 100 percent. The president of the Evrytania Hoteliers’ Association, Panayiotis Mantzoufas, underlined that tourism in the first months of 2008 would depend primarily on snow levels. The area boasts approximately 2,100 hotel beds in all categories. Mantzoufas believes that the area’s tourism growth potential is linked to a number of necessary projects, including a major road artery connecting the towns of Agrinion, Karpenisi and Lamia. In addition, further projects are required to enhance the area’s ski center, as well as sports and the Kremaston Lake infrastructure. In Laconia, southern Peloponnese, tourism businesses enjoyed good profits, as a result of the large number of visitors who traveled there during the holidays. Dimitris Pollalis, president of the Laconia Hoteliers’ Association, pointed to a significant growth in winter tourism, especially in the areas of Mani and Monemvasia. An encouraging development has been that last summer’s devastating forest fires did not have a major impact on visitor numbers. An interesting trend in recent years has been the higher numbers of people from northern Greece visiting the wider Laconia region. The area’s 100 hotels have a total of 3,500 beds. The region of Kastoria, western Macedonia, this year saw tourism business rise, with the largest numbers of visitors being Greeks, followed by Russians. The latter show great interest in visiting Kastoria as it allows them to combine their holidays with shopping in the famous local fur market. It is indicative that in the past five years alone, the number of hotel beds in the region has risen from 650 to 2,500, according to Iordanis Michailidis, president of the Kastoria Hoteliers’ Association. In addition, there is strong investor interest in the construction of new hotels. Another growing segment of tourism is conference and congress tourism. For Michailidis, this should be the focus of the area’s promotion campaign. Tourism business grew considerably also in the Florina region, Western Macedonia, with hotel occupancy rates during the Christmas holidays ranging from 80 percent to 100 percent. Thanasis Rompapas, president of the Florina Hoteliers’ Association, said that 300 more beds are to be added in the first months of 2008 to the 1,200 beds currently offered by local hotels and guest houses. The area is preferred chiefly by domestic visitors, with only a few foreign visitors coming here for winter leisure. To further enhance the region’s tourism prospects, Rompapas referred to a number of necessary projects to improve road access and create cycling and hiking zones around the Prespes lakes. In addition, the area is ideal for bird-watching, given the high interest from foreigners, especially Germans, in the development of related activities. Drama, lying at the northeastern tip of the country near the Greek-Bulgarian border, has also enjoyed higher tourism business during the holidays. Thanassis Lalasidis, president of Drama Hoteliers’ Association, said business was especially good in both the town of Drama itself and throughout the wider region. He stressed the importance of a number of projects to enhance road access to the town, sights and mountains. In the region of Magnesia, southeastern Thessaly (central Greece), the occupancy rate of deluxe establishments on popular winter resort Mt Pelion reached 95 percent. Hotels in the mid-class category enjoyed a rate of occupancy of up to 85 percent. Magnesia Hoteliers’ Association President Costas Leventis told Kathimerini that tourism business had also been satisfactory in the region’s coastal areas during the Christmas holiday period. But Mt Pelion enjoys the additional advantage of a high number of reservations for the rest of the winter season. Leventis also referred to an Air Berlin decision to schedule five flights during the summer, linking the area with five German cities. Hotels enjoyed good business also in Kalavryta in the Peloponnese. The local hoteliers’ association president, Giorgos Tsenes, said tourism numbers this year improved significantly compared to last year, but further business in the remaining winter period would largely depend on the weather. The area’s total bed capacity is 3,000. Hotels in ever-popular Arachova, western Viotia, were booked up during the Christmas holidays, according to Arachova Hoteliers’ Association President Yiannis Georgakos. Lying on the slopes of Mt Parnassus and in close proximity to the Ski Center, Arachova is a trendy and picturesque village that attracts large numbers of domestic visitors.