OPINION

Athens on the tourist map

The drop in tourism in the first quarter of this year in many European countries, including Greece, according to the UN’s World Tourism Organization, has come as no surprise, although there are some countries, such as Italy, where tourist arrivals are up by 11 percent. Everyone working in the industry knows that, apart from the decisive economic factor, there is clearly a web of largely immeasurable elements that have more to do with the realm of psychology than with marketing. This year, part of Greece’s advertising campaign was aimed at the higher economic bracket, with full-page advertisements in publications such as the Financial Times Saturday magazine How to Spend It. Greece is presented as a country where one can find luxury in an environment full of architectural treasures and traces of its ancient history. It is a clever, if not original concept, and, above all, was carried out in good taste. However, life shows us that many things don’t need to be original to be effective. But they do call for common sense. Nothing does more damage than having visitors feel disappointed or, worse still, deceived. Croatia, where tourism is down by 8 percent this year, entered the average traveler’s psyche dynamically with the romantic ad clips shown on CNN that impressed millions of viewers with their music and clever slogan. But Greece is not Croatia, not only because of its long history on the tourist trail but because, apart from its sea and islands, it has a large capital city with a long history. Athens says more to the average European than, for example, does Zagreb. But Athens as a tourist destination offers more in the realm of the imagination than at the level of services and sights. More likely than not, visitors are likely to feel deceived by travel agents and hoteliers. Most hotels are situated around Omonia Square, and that is the image they will take away with them, along with the Acropolis and our clean metro. Is that enough?