Hoteliers fear massive fall in occupancy

The National Hoteliers’ Association and the Hotel Chamber of Greece are to present Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos today with proposals for 10 measures to support the country’s hotel and tourist industry in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. According to the hoteliers’ latest figures, overnight stays in Athens hotels for the winter of 2001-2002 are expected to be reduced by about 50 percent because of the terrorist strikes. This gloomy forecast is apart from the fact that four major hotels in Athens will be closed for renovations during this winter season. They are the Grande Bretagne, Hilton, President and Electra hotels. Outside Athens, other primarily tourist areas usually visited by Americans, such as Santorini and Myconos, are expected to have problems. Tsochadzopoulos, who was appointed development minister last week, is expected to announce his policy today at the opening of the Philoxenia tourism fair in Thessaloniki. His ministry is in charge of tourism. According to sources, one of Tsochadzopoulos’s priorities will be to support the employment of tourism sector employees over the winter season. He will mention the effect of the terrorist attacks on specific sectors of the tourism industry as well as initiatives that will be taken to get over the crisis. Among the more significant measures that hoteliers are calling for is a 25-percent reduction in employers’ contributions to employees’ social security funds in order to prevent layoffs, the suspension of the airport fee on passenger tickets for a year, a reduction in Athens airport levies and an increase to 40 percent of subsidies for investments in hotel modernization. Hoteliers also complain that foreign tour agencies are pressing them to reduce prices to make up for losses expected over the bad winter season and, in addition, are not paying their debts to hotels. Even before news of the merger broke, when rumors abounded, it was greeted with enthusiasm by investors who drove the Athens bourse’s general index up 3.54 percent as National gained 4.39 percent and Alpha 5.74 percent. On Wall Street, National’s stock was up 23 percent at one point.

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