If Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos’s recent announcement comes to pass, the Hellenic Tourism Organization will be merged with the development ministry’s general secretariat for tourism and a new company, EOT SA, will undertake Greece’s promotion as a tourism destination, both domestically and abroad.
The announcement came after Mr. Tsohatzopoulos met last month with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis to discuss a strategic development plan for tourism that would cover the period 2004-2010.
The development plan sets the following as its goals: the improvement of services offered; the promotion of Greece as a multifaceted tourist destination and thus extend the tourist season; the education of tourism industry personnel; the encouragement of private investment; measures to ensure a bigger market share of the international tourism industry; and the modernization of the part of the state administration involved in the sector.
The marketing company that would undertake to promote tourism and all affected sectors will be private sector-controlled. Private sector investors will have a stake of between 55 and 70 percent, with the state holding the rest.
The strategic plan makes special mention of the need to expand room capacity. There are about 8,000 hotels in Greece, with over 312,000 rooms capable of accommodating 600,000 people. Rooms available for let can accommodate another 500,000.
The tourism industry also comprises 4,850 travel offices, 750 road transport companies, 1,500 car rental offices, 200 yacht brokers chartering about 4,500 leisure craft, 30,000 restaurants, 10,500 souvenir shops, 2,000 guides and 350 campsites which can, all together, accommodate 34,000 people.
The plan also emphasizes alternative forms of tourism, such as thermal spas. A bill on promoting spas will be submitted to parliament. In it, the government will make it easier to finance such schemes. Later, it wishes to draft a bill providing further incentives for investing in the sector.