NEWS

Worry over tourism

Although the eyes of the world are on Greece because of the Athens Olympics, Greece appears to be headed for a drop in tourism estimated at between 10 percent and 15 percent. Reports from across the country indicate that only hotel bookings in Athens and other cities hosting Olympic events are satisfactory. It is unprecedented for an Olympic host to show a drop, but there are fears that this will be the fourth straight year of declining tourism. The problem appears to be the result of years of crisis in Greece’s tourism sector, which is plagued by low-quality services and comparatively high prices. Also, the former government did not promote Greece as a destination connected with the Olympics. Other problems are statistical tricks which presented economic migrants as tourists and the lack of incentives for major tourism investment. This has forced hoteliers, in an Olympic year, to offer new packages with discounts averaging up to 20 percent and special offers in the hope that they will attract tourists who have left planning for their summer vacation until the last minute. Countries in the same region as Greece, however, have shown significant gains in bookings. It is worth noting that Spain has a budget of 180 million euros to promote tourism, Turkey is spending 120 million euros and Greece has budgeted 8 million euros for international tourism. Foreign tour operators say that among the issues inhibiting tourists are the fear of a terrorist attack, which could occur in any country, and high prices for goods and services outside of the hotel package. They cite the example of a Briton or German paying 300 euros for air fares and bed and half board for a week, and then paying as much in two or three days for food, drinks and other daily needs. Visitors from these two countries account for 48 percent of Greek tourism and Greece will maintain its efforts to attract tourists from the EU’s 25 members. Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos has instructed his services to complete the necessary tenders quickly in order to start a promotional campaign sooner than ever for next season. According to sources, he aims to begin advertising Greece in foreign markets from this autumn and is trying to increase funds for this by up to 400 percent.