NEWS

Hoteliers to go with SARS ban

Attica’s hoteliers yesterday indicated they would comply with Health Ministry recommendations to turn away visitors from countries with a high incidence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). But travel agents denounced the ministry move, saying it «creates a bad mood without any real reason.» «Tourism companies cannot take the responsibility of not serving tourists or other visitors from these countries,» the Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agents said in a statement. «As these travelers have received permission to enter Greece, how can tourism enterprises not accept them? Where will they stay? Should taxi drivers refuse to carry tourists? Will it be illegal for them to travel in coaches?» On Thursday, Health Minister Costas Stefanis urged hoteliers to stop accepting visitors from countries with a high incidence of SARS, but did not specify which nationalities the ban should include. China has the highest number of SARS deaths, followed by Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada and Taiwan. At least 515 people worldwide had died by yesterday. Southeast Asians make up a tiny fraction of the estimated 13 million people who visit Greece every year. The Athens Hotel Association (EXA) said it would back government efforts to protect the local population from SARS, provided such measures are part of a specific plan and hoteliers are consulted in advance. Hotel association representatives discussed the matter with Stefanis yesterday in a meeting also attended by Development Ministry General Secretary for Tourism Dimitris Georgarakis. After the meeting, EXA Chairman Giorgos Tsakiris told Reuters news agency hotels «will have to avoid taking reservations from visitors coming from areas the World Health Organization has classified as high-risk.»