ECONOMY

Bad start to year for Athens tourism

Hotel room occupancy dropped by about 20 percent in the Athens region in the first quarter of 2009, pointing to a bad year and job losses for the sector, the Attica Hotel Association (EXA) said yesterday. Tourism accounts for nearly a fifth of Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs one in five of the country’s work force. Just 49 percent of rooms in three- to five-star hotels were booked in the first quarter, compared with 60 percent in 2008, the association said, citing a study by GBR Consulting. Average revenue per room slumped 20 percent to 53.20 euros. Bookings may have also been hurt by the failure to highlight Attica in the state’s annual tourism advertising campaign and confusion over museum hours, said Georgios Tsakiris, president of EXA. If the first-quarter decline remains throughout the year, as many as 15,000 jobs could be lost in tourism and revenues could slide by 500 million euros, Tsakiris added. The Greek economy is expected to shrink in 2009 and 2010 after 15 consecutive years of growth, the International Monetary Fund said last week, partly due to falling tourist arrivals. Greek tourism is bracing for a difficult year, with industry sources expecting a decrease in arrivals this year of up to 20 percent from 2008 levels.