Tourist arrivals are expected to show a 2.5 percent drop this year, while overnight stays are projected to decline by 5-6 percent on average, with the latter threatening to shave half a percentage point off Greek economic growth, the Research Institute for Tourism (ITEP) warned yesterday. The tourism think tank said its forecast was based on tourist arrivals in the year to September, which showed a fall of 2.5 percent. The Development Ministry has issued a more conservative decline of 3.5 percent for the year. «A 5 percent decline in overnight stays could take 1.04 million euros or 0.5 percentage points off Greek gross domestic growth,» ITEP said. It blamed the shrinking tourist arrivals on the authorities’ lack of action in promoting the country abroad. The decline was most noticeable in the Dodecanese Islands where tourist arrivals were down by 7.6 percent. Thessaloniki reported a 5.2 percent drop, while the decline in Attica was smaller at 2.5 percent. Crete, the Aegean Islands and Cycladic Islands had declines ranging from 0.8 percent to 2.5 percent. ITEP said the tourist decline came even as rival tourist markets such as Turkey, Spain and Croatia reported substantial gains in the year to date. Their tourism figures are expected to increase further, as these countries have a thriving winter tourism industry where Greece does not. Greece’s increasing loss of appeal as a tourist destination has much to do with the government’s lack of measures to promote and advertise the country, ITEP charged. The absence of investment incentives was also another deterrent. Equally damaging was the fact that the authorities have yet to tie the 2004 Olympic Games to the tourism industry and exploit the advantages linked to the event.