Plan targets vital tourism boost

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday unveiled a 14-step plan aimed at helping the tourism sector withstand headwinds from the global financial crisis in a scheme welcomed by industry officials. Tourism, which accounts for about 20 percent of the economy, is seen as playing a crucial role in determining Greece’s performance during the global slowdown. Karamanlis said measures are aimed at promoting Greece abroad, helping tourism companies cut costs and pumping liquidity into the sector. «We are determined to boost the competitiveness of Greece’s tourism product in a particularly difficult international environment,» he said. The plan includes increasing funds spent on promoting Greece abroad by 50 percent and introducing tax breaks applicable on properties and loans. Steps also include helping tourism companies overcome the credit crunch by providing working capital and finance through the European Union’s National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funding program. The number of tourists who visited Greece in 2008 remained at last year’s levels but is seen as heading for a dip in 2009. Surveys have shown that tourists from Greece’s two traditional markets, Britain and Germany, still intend to go on vacation in 2009 but their choices will be a lot more price sensitive. The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) said the steps are expected to help the sector and the broader economy. «With the measures, a certain number of longstanding issues in the tourism sector have been met, while the basis has been laid for balanced growth in the immediate future,» it said. Karamanlis’s reference to NSRF funding infrastructure projects creates expectations that tourism will be better positioned in the economy, SETE added. Earlier this week, SETE’s president, Nikos Angelopoulos, described cash shortages as being among the most serious problems in the sector. [email protected]