A lot has been said recently on the difficulties that face the Greek tourism market and whether or not tourism enterprises will manage to scrounge out a profit from business activities this year, the year of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. According to some recent surveys, most will do very well this year, or in their attempt to do so destroy the sector with high prices for their services.
To begin with, there are no special rates for traveling by air to an Olympic Games destination, which means that people traveling here will be unable to avoid the widespread rate hikes that are expected to be put into place for the Olympic Games. There will be no cheap flights from scheduled carriers to help offset the prices of the country’s tourism services.
However, airlines have published neither their schedules nor their rates for August, so few conclusions can yet be drawn; though pundits say prospects look quite bleak. They say that airlines are purposefully holding off from publishing their rates’ policies. Even direct deals with agencies to ensure a better price on package deals have apparently been frozen. This leads to the conclusion that even early bookings under a special arrangement will eventually be sold at a much higher rate, they stress.
If, therefore, the average annual increase in airfares is approximately 10 percent, this year’s increases are expected to reach 30 percent. On the positive side, air fares for domestic flights have not shown a particularly sharp increase, so far.
For travel by sea, it looks like prices will remain reasonable. According to information available up until now, domestic rates appear to be at similar levels to last year’s, with a maximum noted increase of 10 euros on boats from Piraeus bound for the islands.
However, traveling by boat abroad, to Italy for example, is going to be considerably dearer this year. For example, Minoan Lines has posted a 15 percent increase in fares for the peak period (August) and a 10 percent rise for off-peak periods. Superfast Ferries has posted an 18 percent rise for August, while increases during the off-season stand at 8-9 percent. ANEK Lines will be raising its rates from 10-12 percent.
Prices for food and services outside of accommodations are impossible to estimate but the fear is that by far the majority of businesses will increase prices to the maximum. Hotel and room prices for the summer are at levels most owners only dream about.
But except for the summer profits expected, the country’s tourism sector has elections to count on this year. This month’s elections should increase annual profits for at least the transportation sector and hotel units. Greek airlines Olympic and Aegean are expected to share some one billion euros in passenger fares from the leading political parties for he transfer of party cadres and voters.
Coastal shipping companies here will see an increase in revenue as well during the days before and after the March 7 elections, but not to the extent seen in past election years. They say weather conditions and new legislation that allows voters to vote in the constituency where they live will keep people at home.
Hotels, especially in the Athens area, have been kept busy with the various get-togethers organized by election candidates. However, recent bad weather did cause a lot of cancellations.
The real winner this year is the tour bus owner. All political parties bus their supporters to the various gatherings across the country that are organized by each party.