Hoteliers cry foul over 2004 deal

After encouraging massive investment to boost the capital’s hotel infrastructure ahead of the 2004 Games, the government and Olympic organizers have failed to properly advertise Athens as an international tourist destination, hoteliers complained yesterday. The Athens Hoteliers’ Association told a press conference yesterday that a total of 1.3 billion euros is being plowed into hotel infrastructure ahead of next August’s Olympics – 900 million on upgrading existing units and 400 million on building new ones. The city will have 5,000 new hotel beds in time for the Games, a 9.5 percent increase. But in January-August 2003, occupancy rates at Attica hotels – most of which are in the capital – have fallen 12.5 percent over the corresponding period of 2002, the association said, resulting in losses of 25-30 million euros for hoteliers. Overall stays in Athens were 15-20 percent lower than in Sydney before the 2000 Olympics, hoteliers said, blaming the government for not having done enough to sell the city as a destination, rather than a simple stopover for visitors heading to island or other mainland resorts. «We were promised Athens would be intensively promoted as a tourist destination abroad,» the association’s chairman, Giorgos Tsakiris, told Agence France-Presse. «None of that has materialized.» Tsakiris said the association would not rule out legal action to force the government and the organizing committee to fulfill their part of a deal under which hoteliers would boost infrastructure ahead of the Games in return for state promotion. The state-run Greek National Tourism Organization countered that it would have been foolish to advertise Athens during the Iraq war. An overwhelming 95 percent of rooms in top Athens hotels have been reserved for assorted Olympics officials during the Games.