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2004 Tourism Picture Remains Clouded

When compared with last year, the drop in tourism arrivals this year is expected to reach anywhere between less than 1% to as high as 10%. It all depends on whom you listen to. Tourism revenue, again according to whom you listen to, will drop from 5% to as high as 15% against last year.

Most blame the anticipated losses on the lack of promotion abroad and Greece’s failure to utilize the positive effects of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. They also mention the strong competition from non-European Union countries within the Mediterranean area, but neighbors Italy and Cyprus foresee major increases in arrivals this year. Others say services outside the hotel are just too expensive.

By mid-May, tourism professionals here say bookings from the UK to Greece are down some 20% over last year, and bookings from France are said to be down by as much as 30%. Greece’s other major market, Germany, appears to be holding onto last year’s arrival numbers.

Meanwhile, a number of Greek hoteliers have hiked their prices by an average of 70-80 percent ahead of the Summer Olympics, according to the Hellenic Tourism Organization, despite the sizable drop in tourism arrivals so far this year, an average drop of 18-21 percent in the first quarter, according to some.

The Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers, however, claimed that there is little truth in complaints that hotel owners were pushing prices up ahead of the August 13-29 Games. “This is criticism made in poor faith, from which the only people who will benefit are travel agents who are pressing for discounts in their existing contracts for summer rooms,” the federation said.

It argued that 90 percent of all hotel rooms in Attica were booked four years ago for Olympics officials at “very low” prices. “The very few remaining rooms are destined for top businessmen and high-ranking officials in multinational companies, and it is natural that they should be rented at higher prices than usual.”

The vice president of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, Nikos Angelopoulos, said in a recent interview that he was not even optimistic about the sector in the post-Olympic Games era and also spoke about the downward trend tourism has not been able to break out of in the last few years.

Signs of a break in the trend, not of a rebound, are what we are all waiting for since we are in an Olympic year, he said, but this is unfortunately not happening for the country as a whole, with the exception perhaps of Athens.

He added that the complete lack of a strategy to connect the Olympic Games to Greece has resulted in a negative record being set in this country. Greece is the only nation that has seen its tourism arrivals slide despite the hosting of the Games.

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