Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos during a recent press call said that Greek tourism is heading for recovery following the end of the war in Iraq. He said tourist arrivals will pick up pace later this year following the end of the war in Iraq and despite the threat posed by the SARS epidemic. (Latest reports say that a cure for the sickness is in the works and could be out within the month.)
Preliminary signs show the sector appears to be recovering from the decline in bookings posted in the March-April period, when the war in Iraq was taking place, said Mr. Tsohatzopoulos.
“We had declines of 10 percent in some places, 15 percent in others and 20 percent elsewhere,” he said. At the moment, however, we see that initial signs show the sector appears to be getting back on track and could even make up for the early-year losses.
“I expect and hope that we will have a better year, overcoming the losses in the first four months just like when we did with September 11,” he said. The government is targeting tourism arrivals of close to the same number as last year.
In the meantime, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos renewed his call for a joint tourism policy with neighboring countries, saying this would lead to increased state support and more effective marketing for the industry.
The development minister responsible for tourism also defended indebted flag carrier Olympic Airways and its ongoing attempts to create a leaner and smaller operation. The European Commission recently referred Greece to the Court of Justice for failing to recover close to 200 million euros in misused state aid from the airline.
He said the airline plays an important role in the local tourism industry and is deemed crucial to the success of the 2004 Olympic Games. Key to Olympic’s survival is its ability to form some sort of an alliance with regional airlines, he said.