OPINION

Better services, new mentality

Data released yesterday confirm the rise in tourist arrivals over the past year. Accordingly, tourism revenues have exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts. Figures appear to vindicate the most sanguine analysts while reflecting the success of organizing the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens on the one hand and the intensive campaign promoting Greece as a tourism destination (launched by government last fall) on the other. Success is beyond doubt. The people who planned and executed this very profitable plan have every reason to feel satisfied. Its significance is magnified by soaring profits during a difficult time for European economies. Furthermore, the good thing about tourism revenues is that they get distributed among a large number of businesses, many of which are small and medium-sized. However, we should not stop at celebrating and congratulating ourselves: Tourism officials must take steps to extend the upward trend into the next year. Tourist numbers must continue to rise at a healthy rate. All the necessary conditions are present. First, most cities and in particular Athens can take advantage of the upgraded infrastructure – the legacy of the Olympic Games. It is no coincidence that foreign visitors spend most of their budget in Athens while they choose to spend nearly as much time in the capital as in their preferred destination. Moreover, the number of foreign boats that visited Greece’s ports more than doubled. Infrastructure projects have upgraded Greece’s tourist resorts and clearly enhanced the country’s appeal to foreigners. However, we should not underestimate that foreign visitors’ spending per capita in Greece (in constant prices) has dropped by 13.8 percent while traveling to Greece has become more expensive by 6.5 percent. To put it simply, we must improve the quality of services so that tourists are tempted to spend more. On top of the essential infrastructure projects, that also demands a change in the mentality of those who are involved in the tourism sector. That is the only way Greece can achieve sustainable tourism development.