NEWS

Drive to offset losses in tourism

Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos has told Kathimerini that authorities are doing everything possible to offset the damage to the Greek tourism sector caused by street violence in Athens earlier this month, adding that his interest was in developing quality tourism in Greece, not competing with up-and-coming budget destinations such as Turkey and Egypt. In an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, Geroulanos said the government already had taken various steps «to restrict losses» in the tourism sector, including simplifying the procedure for issuing visas and lifting cabotage restrictions to allow non European Union-flagged cruise liners to dock at Greek ports. Geroulanos said that the negative publicity about Greece in the foreign press, fueled by the deaths of three people after a bank was firebombed on May 5, had capitalized on the «tragically unfair» deaths to project a warped image of Athens. «There was a sense [in the articles] that such violence is the norm,» Geroulanos said. «We are now trying to project the country’s real image,» he added, noting that millions of tourists visit Greece for its islands rather than its capital. Asked how Greece can compete with regional rivals in the tourism sector, such as Turkey and Egypt, which have seen increases of 20 to 30 percent in bookings as compared to losses of around 15 percent in Greece, Geroulanos said that Greece should focus on its competitive advantages. «It’s a mistake to compare ourselves to Turkey and Egypt,» he said. «These are cheap countries with massive hotels that have created small ghettos for tourists who stay there and do not spend much money.» Geroulanos said his ministry was planning to extend the traditional tourist season beyond the summer and develop alternative forms of tourism.