An increase in foreign arrivals during the early part of the summer so far has helped cancel the losses seen in the early part of the year. And in an effort to stem some profiteering, particularly at eating establishments, government inspectors continue to visit tourism destinations to inspect prices and services, according to Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.
The competitiveness of Greek tourism “is our most potent weapon and has to be safeguarded by all means,” he said. In contrast with catering points, he noted that accommodation prices were “very satisfactory” due to intense competition throughout Europe.
He said initial data showed that arrivals in July were “significantly higher” than a year earlier and that the government was certain that the trend would continue, possibly offsetting the shortfall earlier this year due to the Iraq war and the SARS epidemic.
However, Deputy Development Minister Dimitris Georgakopoulos, who briefed reporters at a later date, gave a slightly less optimistic picture.
He said that according to first-half figures and estimates from the Hellenic Tourism Organization’s offices abroad, there will be a fall of between 2 percent and 3.5 percent for 2003.
He said charter flight arrivals in July had recovered from a slump in May and June and were only 0.05 percent lower than July 2002. The picture of projected arrivals from individual countries was mixed.
The organization, for example, forecasts a 5 percent fall in arrivals from Germany, one of Greece’s major markets, and a 23 percent drop from the USA, but a rise of 10 percent from Italy and 5 percent from France.
According to the most recent tourism organization figures released, foreign arrivals on charter flights to 17 Greek airports were down 2.77 percent in June year-on-year. The organization predicts that lower bookings early in the year due to the Iraq war, SARS and the economic downturn will be counterbalanced later in the year.
Compiling data from 17 airports, the organization said that charter arrivals totaled 1,285,211 in June, against 1,321,835 in June 2002, down 36,624.
The report noted that movement was down in traditional tourism destinations including Athens (-24.60), Santorini (-12.76 percent), and Mykonos (-11.43 percent).
Arrivals had increased to non-traditional destinations including Thessaloniki (+12.24 percent), Kalamata (+16.28 percent), and Lesvos (+9.43 percent), the report said.
Meanwhile, latest data from Hellenic Tourism Organization offices abroad show arrivals from Germany this year will most likely drop by some 5% compared with last year, while Greece’s other main tourism market, the UK, will show a slight increase in arrivals this year over last year.
From the country’s other major markets, such as Italy and France, the offices expect to see a 10% and 5% increase respectively, which should cancel out any negative total from Germany.
In the same vein, while they expect a 5% decrease from central European countries, as well as Spain and Portugal, a similar increase of 5% in arrivals is expected from countries such as Austria, Luxembourg and Belgium.
The biggest decrease in arrivals comes from countries where Greece does not have a strong tradition regarding arrival numbers, such as North America (-23%) and Japan (-30%).
The losses from these up-market destinations, however, as well as a general trend this year toward cut-rate vacation prices, will most likely result in a severe drop in tourism foreign exchange this year.