Tourism on the spot

One of the main motives for hosting the Olympic Games was to promote Greece abroad – an idea that was mostly understood in economic terms. It was hoped that after the Olympics spending spree, we would eventually reap the rewards. This was to have happened through a surge in tourism revenues and, secondarily, through the positive impact achieved by major infrastructure projects that were designed – or accelerated – in view of the Games. Attaining this goal presupposes a successful Games, which will in turn depend on our organization and hospitality. Notwithstanding the stressful delays and ensuing budget overruns, the State has so far managed to live up to the challenge. Barring any unexpected or unavoidable hitch, Athens will stage a stunning Olympics. It remains to be seen whether Greeks, particularly those in the tourism business, will also rise to the occasion. This will be crucial for two reasons. First, they stand to benefit the most from the heavy promotion of Greece. And also because this is the challenge we have failed to meet so far. I happened to travel with a group of friends to the south coast of Turkey, a country which recently reported a 60 percent rise in tourism. Arriving at the seaside resort of Marmaris, we witnessed the huge progress made by Turkey’s tourism industry – or, if you like, Greece’s stagnation in the sector. A marina built to US specifications gave full services to foreign boats at low cost. Prices in restaurants, hotels and shops were far lower than those in Greece. Cleanliness, even in public toilets, was exemplary. The locals never tried to cheat us. All taxis were equipped with maps listing the exact price for the most common destinations in the area. Greek tourism is depressing by comparison. If the latter is to win any kind of Olympic medal, it will have to strive harder than any of our athletes.

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