ECONOMY

SETE sees 20 pct fewer visitors in 09

The number of tourists expected to visit Greece this year is likely to fall 20 percent from 2008 due to the global crisis in a drop that may slash tens of thousands of jobs in the vital industry, a sector group said yesterday. Nikos Angelopoulos, president of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), said deteriorating economic conditions in Greece’s target markets and unfavorable foreign exchange conditions in non-eurozone states are likely to translate into 3 million fewer tourists visiting the country in 2009. «Taking into account secondary effects, the loss in revenues will be at least 5 billion euros, along with tens of thousands fewer job positions,» he said. The tourism industry, which accounts for about 18 percent of the economy, employs one in five workers. It is bracing for a difficult year as the crisis has hit Greece’s two largest markets, Great Britain and Germany, hard. A 20 percent dip in the value of the British pound against the euro, along with drops in the value of currencies belonging to Eastern European and Scandinavian countries are making a trip to Greece more expensive. «As a result… tourism destinations in the eurozone have become expensive for residents of these countries,» added Angelopoulos. Recent government measures aimed at supporting the industry, such as tax breaks on properties, have provided businesses with the leeway to reduce prices by between 15 and 20 percent but more help has yet to be delivered, added Angelopoulos. «Unfortunately, not all steps have been implemented, with the most important one being the promotional campaign,» he said. A 14-step action plan, including 50 percent more funds advertising the country abroad, was announced by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in December after weeks of rioting had taken place in Athens and other major Greek cities. [email protected]