Tourism in for bumper 2005 season

Last year’s successful Olympic Games along with a promotional campaign of the country abroad have led to a bumper tourism season this summer, with extra arrivals expected to carry on in the next few months, according to industry officials. Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said yesterday that the government expects tourist arrivals this year to hit double-digit growth rates in comparison to the 2004 season. This confirms estimates given by international tourism authorities that predicted a growth rate for Greece of more than 11.5 percent this year, the minister said in a television interview. The positive numbers help provide some solace to a country which spent an estimated 13 billion euros to host what is being labeled as the world’s most expensive Olympic Games. Athens, however, has come up as one of the winners in tourism this year, a destination which visitors had previously ignored on their way to the country’s islands. Industry sources estimate that 14 million tourists will visit the country’s shores in 2005. Avramopoulos added that based on current bookings, September and October look good, but warned that companies in the sector should maintain high-quality services in a highly competitive field. Greece competes in the international tourism market with many cheaper destinations, which many say offer deals with much better value for money. The government has launched a 50-million-euro promotional campaign in a bid to lift the country’s appeal and help turn it into a year-round destination. The amount is considered small when compared to the advertising budgets of other countries such as Turkey and Spain, but is larger than what Greece spent in the past. The ruling conservatives have increased Greece’s focus on tourism, a sector which economists say contributes almost 40 percent every year to the country’s gross domestic product. Along with the extended advertising campaign, the government created a separate tourism ministry soon after its election in March last year.