On average, Athens area hotels so far have kept overnights at last year’s level and look forward to a good summer. Not so with hotels outside the area. This season’s holiday bookings are down 15 to 20% against last year, according to reports from Hellenic Tourism Organization offices abroad. The drop encourages foreign tour operators to pressure hoteliers for lower rates.
Greece’s Panhellenic Hoteliers’ Federation, in an attempt to confront the problem, has sent a protest circular to all its members (regional hotel associations). The circular urges all hoteliers not to submit to tour operator pressure for new price discounts.
The federation says this is the third year running for such tour operator tactics. It reminds all that additional price cuts may bring immediate sales but they force hoteliers to cut down their quality of services and availability of services in order to make up the loss. All of which in the end degrades the hotel’s reputation.
As well, says the federation, continual last minute discounts steadily increases the number of hotel customers who will wait until the last-minute to book holidays. And as this practice punishes the preferred customer who books summer vacation in advance, the few that do so will feel at the very least, cheated.
It’s not only hotels that face problems this year. Room rentals for the Athens 2004 Games are hardly what were expected. Although Filoxenia ’04, the company that manages the program of accommodating visitors to the Athens Olympics in private housing, will likely achieve its target of finding 3,000 apartments and individual houses, finding the 12,000 clients to fill them will be rather trickier.
According to company managers, foreign interest is well below expectations and they must pin their hopes to a last-moment surge in demand. They attribute low demand to continuing problems with international terrorism, a strong euro, and a barrage of international media articles about delays in Olympics-related projects.
Another negative factor is Euro 2004, the European soccer tournament that will take place in Portugal in 2004. Given the sport’s popularity in Europe, it is understandable that many Europeans will prefer the shorter trip to Portugal. The tight economic conditions prevailing in Europe mean that for most people two foreign trips in a summer are out of the question.
On top of these negative factors, the delay by Games organizers Athens 2004 in negotiating with the two main consortiums that bid for the contract -Alpha Filoxenia 2004 and Elliniki Filoxenia- before they agreed to join forces and set up Filoxenia ’04, limited the time available for a promotional campaign abroad.
An indication that the accommodation program is not going well is the decision by the consortium to no longer provide statistics. During the last such presentation to the media, in mid-February, Filoxenia ’04 had revealed that just 300 apartments or houses had been rented to foreigners. According to press reports, the number of rented units is now closer to 450.
Also, in mid-February, more than 25,000 units had been offered to the consortium and contracts signed for 600.
Given that Athens is considered one of the most expensive European cities regarding accommodation, prospective foreign visitors are mostly interested in small, cheap apartments in the city center.
Filoxenia ’04 says the rental program is a low-cost alternative for visitors, given the inability of Athens hotels to cater for all visitors. The whole accommodation package includes transfer from and to the airport, transport to Olympic venues with special buses, tours and excursions, a 24-hour call center and housecleaning services.
Also, Filoxenia ’04 offers clients the opportunity to enter a draw for 300 tickets to the opening ceremony and an equal number to the closing ceremony.
Homes are sorted into four categories (A, B, C and “luxury homes”) according to year and quality of construction, furnishing and proximity to the competition venues and the city center.