The Hellenic Tourism Organization said it would begin its 7.3-million-euro tourism advertising campaign abroad this month. The organization’s president, Yiannis Patellis, said that the campaign’s theme would very much resemble that of last year and announced that Greece had already began an ad campaign with UK’s Travel Channel television station.
(In addition to the regular program, Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis announced an emergency package of 7 million euros for tourism promotion in order to pick up lost ground because of the Iraq war. In all, actual advertising funds this year will reach 14.3 million euros.)
Mr. Patellis added that tourism authorities were also becoming more dynamic with public relations actions and lobbying. They also were promoting a ”freezing” of extra charges in the country’s airports.
Regarding arrivals this year, he said that Greece could benefit from travel cancellations to Egypt and Turkey, which would help offset a drop in bookings thus far from Greece’s two major markets, Britain and Germany. He added, however, that reservations from France, Italy and Belgium were on the rise.
Greek travel agents, however, remind April is officially a write-off for the tourism industry. Yiannis Evangelou, president of the Hellenic Travel and Tourism Association, said recently that there have been mass cancellations for Crete, Rodos, Corfu and Kos.
Spring tour programs have also suffered, he said, as have conference and convention bookings from overseas clients.
Even for the July-September period reservations are down 30 percent, he said. “Nonetheless, we expect the damage to be lighter now that the war appears over.”
Tourism experts say it is too soon to tell if the industry will suffer as it did from the Gulf War in 1991 – when worldwide tourism had its slowest growth since World War II.
“If the conflict is short, and if it is limited geographically, the impact may not be so huge,” Francesco Frangialli, secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization, said at a recent industry fair in Berlin. The shorter the war, the faster the industry rebounds, he said.
Meanwhile, the Attica Hoteliers’ Union announced that hotel occupancy rates rose in February, albeit with luxury hotels’ rates falling to 43.12 percent (from 44.45 percent in February 2002), while occupancy rates in classes A, B, C, and E rose over the same period.