Tourism sector may see 7-year low

Income from the tourism sector is expected to fall to a seven-year low in 2010 with the best-case scenario predicting that arrival numbers will be the same as last year’s levels. Deputy Tourism Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis admitted yesterday that revenues will be between 7 to 9 percent lower than in 2009, attributing the drop-off to continued strike action taking place in Greece. The minister’s views mirror those expressed by Andreas Andreadis, president of the Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers, who also expects tourism revenues to shrink by up to 9 percent this year. If this forecast materializes, that will mean 1 billion euros less for the economy, with income from tourism for the 12-month period falling to 9.4 billion euros. The last time the figure dipped below the 10-billion-euro mark was in 2003, when it reached 9.5 billion euros, according to Bank of Greece data. By contrast, the best performance was recorded in 2008, when revenues hit 11.6 billion euros, but this was followed by the international economic crisis in 2009, which resulted in annual tourism receipts falling by 1.2 billion euros. At the start of July, Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said that revenues could drop by an annual pace of up to 15 percent. Athens hotels are likely to be hit hardest from the downturn as was the case last year. Yiannis Retsos, president of the Athens-Attica Hotel Association, estimates that sector revenues will be 8 to 10 percent lower than last year after sliding by an annual pace of 18 percent in 2009. Looking ahead, Nikitiadis is upbeat about the course of the tourism sector in coming years. He believes that the number of arrivals could jump to 25 million people in coming years, from around 14 million currently, in line with a sharp rise shown in neighboring Turkey.