Hotel owners see recovery from the decline of the ’90s

The holiday resorts of Halkidiki, Pieria, Kavala and Thasos have seen some changes with the arrival of tourists from the Balkans and Southeastern Europe in addition to the usual visitors from Western Europe. Hundreds of hotel owners in northern Greece have seen a turnaround in tourism (up 50 percent in Pieria), in contrast with owners of rented rooms and campsites, who are endeavoring to make up for the losses incurred over the past decade. Halkidiki For the past five years, visitors from FYROM and Bulgaria have been regular visitors to Halkidiki, though visa obstacles cut back the numbers this year. The beaches of Cassandra and Sithonia are also popular with thousands of Russians, Ukrainians, Romanians and Czechs. Visitors from Southeastern Europe have contributed to a 3-5 percent rise in tourism in Halkidiki in 2003-2004, after a long decline. «This year is better than the past two years,» said Makis Athanassopoulos of the Halkidiki Hoteliers’ Union. The area has about 40,000 hotel beds, 13,500 rooms and apartments with 33,000 beds, and 40 campgrounds (30 in Sithonia, six in Cassandra and three on the border with Mount Athos – which cater to religious tourism). Germans, Britons, Austrians and Greeks account for 80 percent of the clients at large hotels (the remainder being from the Balkans and Southeastern Europe). The boom has not affected rooms to let, which are having a bad year, according to Asterios Psaroyiannis, president of the local association of rented room and apartment owners. This is attributable to the growth in domestic tourism and to a noticeable drop in tourism from May to October, with the exception of July 15-August 15, when accommodation is 80 percent full. Campsites have also seen the numbers drop, says Antonis Delidimitriou, president of the Halkidiki Campsites Union. During the week, campsites are no more than 2-30 percent full, while on weekends they are up to 60 percent full. The number of Western Europeans who used to visit Halkidiki dropped noticeably after the war in former Yugoslavia. They have not returned even in recent years, but visit other parts of Greece (the Peloponnese or the Ionian Islands), while many of them go to Montenegro. Pieria In the summer of 1990, one campsite in Pieria had 14,000 overnight visitors, of whom 10,000 were foreigners (Germans, Austrians, Serbs and French). Over the past few summers, overnight stays have numbered no more than 8,000 (of which 6,000 were by Greeks), said Nikos Papathanassiou, president of the Pieria Prefecture Campsite Union. At 50 kilometers, one of the country’s longest beaches, Pieria was a favorite holiday destination for Serbs until 1991. The war in former Yugoslavia dealt a heavy blow to tourism in Platamonas, Neoi Pori, Skotina and Panteleimonas, which lost not only Serb tourists but also the Western Europeans who used to drive through to southern Greece. «Until 1991, 90 percent of our visitors were foreign. In recent years, 80 percent of our clients have been Greek,» said Papathanassiou. Overall, however, tourism in Pieria has seen a recovery in the past five years. Tourism organization representatives speak of a 50 percent increase over last year at hotels which, Vassilis Lambrou, a board member of the Pieria hoteliers’ association, said are more than 90 percent full, and most of them 100 percent full. Germans represent 70 percent of the clientele of the large hotels, but the 80 or so smaller hotels have received a shot in the arm from Serbs, Russians, Czechs, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians and people from FYROM, who comprise 60 percent of the tourists, according to Lambrou. Pieria has around 8,500 rented rooms, 3,500 of them in the southern district. As Grigoris Grekas, head of the local federation of rented accommodation owners noted, though there has been a considerable recovery in recent years, this year there has been a drop of 10-20 percent over last year due to the visa requirement and the high cost of vacations in Greece.

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