Tourism drop softer than feared

Last year ended with a 7.4 percent decline in the arrivals of foreign tourists by air compared with 2008, according to data processed by the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE). This figure was far better than the originally feared drop of 20 percent. The reasons for this slighter decline lie in the hotel enterprises which dropped their prices and drew more visitors from abroad as well as Greeks, but which also brought about a 16 percent decline in revenues. Tourism receipts saw a yearly decline estimated at 11 to 12 percent. SETE data showed that arrivals at the 13 airports that represent some 95 percent of total arrivals of foreigners in Greece by air and 74 percent of arrivals by any means, came to 10,695,328 against 11,544,445 in 2008. There was therefore a loss of some 850,000 tourism arrivals, with 500,000 concerning the airports in Athens and Crete. Tourism in Athens had additional losses in the first few months of 2009 due to the December 2008 unrest in the capital. Hotel enterprises were able to resort to lowering their prices and offering discounts because they had benefited from the measures of support taken last year to curb the impact of the global economic crisis. Representatives of tourism bodies are expressing their worries about the course of Greek tourism this year, as there appears to be a sharp fall in bookings from the main markets, and are waiting for the government to reaffirm the support measures that applied last year. Winter resorts are also struggling, having missed out on some of the season’s traffic due to the unseasonable warm weather in December.