OPINION

North provides tourist market

A notable feature of this year’s tourist season was the huge influx of visitors from the north to the beaches of northern Greece, Epirus and many Greek islands. By conservative reckoning, more than 1 million tourists from southeastern Europe vacationed on Greek shores, an increase of 20 percent over last year, when far fewer visitors arrived from central Europe. A vast market stretching from Serbia to Siberia and the Caucasus has warmly embraced Greece’s major industry, tourism. In southeastern Europe, where economies are growing rapidly and the standard of living is rising fast, many people can now afford to holiday abroad, and many more will be able to do so in the future. Tourism on Greece’s northeastern border has struck gold, and it must make the most of it in the future. Not enough is being done to promote our high quality product. Greece must make things easier for potential customers. A Russian from Siberia who wants to vacation in Greece must make a five-hour flight to Moscow then wait in line for 2-3 hours at the Greek consulate, where just two staff members serve thousands of people. The tourism industry’s demand for two more consulates, one in central and one in southern Russia, has come up against a lack of funds, yet consulates are maintained in unlikely places, such as Rotterdam, or «for national reasons» in places such as Monastiri in FYROM. Tourist businesses also need to bring their outlook up to date. The days when they snubbed Bulgarians, Romanians, Albanians and Russians – fearful that they might steal rusty cutlery from a grubby rented room – belong to the past. And the practice of large hotel complexes and some restaurants serving food from caterers on the pretext that «Russians will eat anything» not only do not attract new customers but will deter those who have shown a preference for Greece. After all, they have many alternatives, not far from Greek shores.