Hoteliers lament lack of promotion for 2004 The Greek Hoteliers’ Chamber (XEO) said «it is inconceivable that a promotional campaign for the Athens Olympic Games has not yet been launched,» two years before the event. Red tape and overlapping responsibilities have prevented the effective launch of modernization programs for small hotels through EU-subsidized investment programs, XEO further charged. It also noted that contrary to earlier predictions of a tourism boom due to the Games, the World Tourism Organization recently forecast that Greece will show no particular growth in this sector in the next three years. Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, who yesterday inaugurated the Greek National Tourism Organization’s photographic and art exhibition «Journey Through Time» at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, said that according to provisional data Greece attracted more than 14 million foreign visitors in 2001, ranking 14th in the world, and earned $10,248 million in foreign exchange in 2001, ranking 10th in the world. Coastal shippers protest decision for discounts Ferry operators are reacting strongly to Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis’s decision of compulsory discounts for certain categories of passengers in economy class, threatening to seek redress at the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, on the grounds that it is contrary to the principle of free competition. The measure mainly concerns the inhabitants of small islands, students, young children, large families and the disabled. Anomeritis said he is open to dialogue with operators which must be conducted on the basis of data which they have not yet furnished. However, Minoan Lines announced the extension of 50 percent discounts to more categories of needy citizens until March 30, 2003. Environmental tax The Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage, at 28 Tripodon St, in Plaka, Athens, is hosting an international two-day meeting tomorrow and Saturday on environmental tax reform. The event will be addressed by a number of expert academics, Eurodeputies and public figures, including former EU Environment Commissioner Yiannis Palaiokrassas, who is chairman of a working group on the reform, based on the idea of partly substituting taxes on energy consumption for taxes on income. The meeting starts at 4 p.m. tomorrow. For further details, tel 210.322.5240. Interamerican Insurance group Interamerican has set up the first road assistance firm in Bulgaria, where it started operating four years ago. The new firm will have 15 stations around the country and will be modeled on its Greek sister company. Their subscribers will enjoy the same benefits in both countries. Interamerican is wholly owned by Netherlands-based Eureko group. Retail sales Retail sales shot up 12 percent in August year-on-year, powered mainly by housing and consumer loans which recorded 44.6 percent and 41.9 percent increases, respectively, the National Statistics Service said. In the January-August period, sales were up 9.1 percent year-on-year.