Plans to boost tourism while Euro president

The government is preparing to undertake initiatives to boost tourism at the European level during the country’s tenure of the European Union presidency in the first half of 2003, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said yesterday. «We have already prepared our proposals on the basis of which we shall formulate a tourism policy at European level,» he told a press briefing. «We wish to promote new types of tourism in the European region, alternative tourism, sports tourism, eco-tourism, agro-tourism and conference tourism,» Tsochadzopoulos said. The initiative also includes the promotion of cheaper mass air transport facilities, particularly through charter companies. Tsochadzopoulos also announced that the government is preparing legislation for the building of summer housing complexes and special tourism facilities on specific areas measuring more than 40 acres in size in Greece. He said the sites concerned, which included both private and public land found to be suitable, will make investment in the sector more attractive, particularly regarding upmarket categories such as golf courses, spas and thalassotherapy sites. The measure will also make it possible for 25-30 percent of such areas to be used for holiday housing developments which, it is hoped, will attract foreign investors from further afield in Europe. «The promotion of residential tourism property for European citizens, on favorable financial terms, will constitute an important axis of our country’s tourism policy, and help the relationship with other Europeans on the tourism level acquire a more stable and permanent character,» the minister said. «What we are familiar with as a holiday home can become part of a European market» along the models already developed by other Mediterranean countries, he added. This will also attract more high-income tourists and lengthen the tourist season, he argued. About 1,3000 small tourism enterprises approved for EU investment subsidies will start receiving a 40 percent tranche of $250 million on November 15. Tsochadzopoulos said tourist traffic to Greece this year was likely to be on a par with 2002 levels. But he added that official figures would not be available until early in 2003. Finally, he said the Philoxenia tourism exhibition, due to open in Thessaloniki next Thursday, will host a conference of experts of the World Tourism Organization and a presentation of Greece’s regional tourism development programs.