Despite ominous forecasts, Greek hoteliers and travel agents are somewhat optimistic for this year’s tourism sector. They feel Greece this year most likely will have fewer than anticipated losses thanks to its six-month EU presidency, which is expected to be a boon for the country’s tourist industry for a variety of non-political reasons.
However, Greek hoteliers and tourist agents say they are not in a position to say with certainty to what degree the Greek EU presidency will assist in recouping anticipated losses this year. Most believe we will see a decline in the number of high-income tourists, which is anticipated to intensify this year, but they do not expect a major drop from the mass tourism market.
The first concrete signs on the actual course of tourism in late March will make forecasting for the rest of the year much easier, they say.
Much depends on whether or not there will be a war in Iraq, which would exacerbate the present oil crisis underway in western markets. There are also the world’s economic problems, not to mention new hot spots rapidly developing worldwide. Tourism professionals cite the difficulties in stock markets around the world and the ensuing loss of consumer confidence.
Nevertheless, Greece’s six-month EU presidency could transform a small country like Greece into a key player in the international political arena, which gives its economy an opportunity to develop more rapidly.
And as the country’s economy is dominated by the tourism services, this is the sector that should get most of the benefits. Already, we have seen a major preference by northern Europeans, including the British, with a minor increase in bookings to date over last year, to vacation in Greece this year (Britain and Germany contribute more than half of all arrivals to Greece). And ITB Berlin travel fair executives do not foresee Germans making any changes in their vacation habits.
The only downside, say professionals, is that they expect most arrivals this year to spend less and search diligently for the cheapest possible prices.