ECONOMY

Iberostar set to expand

German-owned Thomas Cook travel group plans an aggressive policy of further penetration into the Greek hotel market through its Iberostar member. Manolis Kritsotakis, a long-time chairman of hoteliers in Lasithi district, Crete, and Iberostar Greece’s general manager, says the firm will add four units to its operations as of next year, bringing the total under management to seven with a capacity of about 5,000 beds. The additions are Athina Palace in Iraklion, Crete, with a capacity of 900 beds and Hippocrates, Panorma and Panorama Suites in Psalidi on Kos island with a total capacity of 2.000 beds. Iberostar Greece already manages three hotels in Rethymnon: Creta Panorama, Creta Marine and Creta Mare. Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, a member of Iberostar International, is based in Spain where the majority of its 65 hotels under management are located. Outside Greece, it also has a presence in Tunisia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico. Kritsotakis agrees with other tourism operators that Greece is not among the investment priorities of international hotel chains and travel groups. He notes that such investments in Greece break even after 10 years, compared to five to six years in other destinations. He regrets the fact that Lasithi’s tourism growth is subject to official restrictions. «Despite being Crete’s most beautiful district, Lasithi is the laggard in terms of growth and is the worst hit by this year’s slump. Whereas the other districts in Crete add about 2,000 to 4,000 beds to capacity every year, our figure is zero. This is due to the fact that our area was declared saturated in 1986, which means that you can’t built a hotel on areas of less than two hectares. Our association’s efforts to overcome this obstacle, supported by the local authorities, have come to naught,» Kritsotakis says. He fears that the sector will not bounce back in 2003.