Hundreds of flights a day seen during the first 20 days of the month of August have been bringing plane-loads of Olympic visitors to Athens, especially during the days leading up to the launch of the Olympic Games. But it’s still too early to confirm whether predictions -that the Games will not attract enough visitors to boost what has undoubtedly been a bad year for tourism- will actually come true or not.
What is clear, however, is that central Athens has been swarming with tourists while Athenians were away on vacation.
Tourism specialists here for the Games say the sector is likely to pick up and increase from 20 to 30% next year if the Games are as successful as they appear to be as billions of people will see Greece in all its splendor.
In the meantime, however, tourism professionals here are far from happy and Greek hoteliers are back to basics. They are said to be slashing their initially high prices in a last-ditch effort to lure foreigners after hopes of an Olympics-driven tourist boom were dashed. They say that just prior to the launch of the Games foreign arrivals were down by some 12 percent. The drop recorded when compared with expectations is dramatic, say local hoteliers.
Most blame Greece’s failure to capitalize on the world’s biggest sports event on greed: Hotels had inflated prices last winter on hopes of high demand that never materialized and instead scared away many visitors.
The Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies said Athens hotels had expected to sell 100,000 to 150,000 beds a night during the August 13-29 Games but have sold only 70,000 to 120,000. They are now cutting prices for mid-range hotels to 150 euros from 350-400 euros and for luxury hotels to 350 euros from 500-600 euros.
Greece had 12 million to 13 million visitors last year -official figures are still not available- but whatever, that’s a million or two more than the country’s 11 million population. Tourism makes up 18 percent of its economy and employs about 800,000 people.