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Hoteliers Urge Adoption of Longer Hours for Museums and Shops

The Greek Chamber of Hotels says that the increase in opening hours of shops and museums in the country, as recently proposed by the government, is a positive step towards bolstering tourism.

As a country with a large tourism industry, we have to seriously take into account the peculiarities in the consumer behavior of tourists, the chamber said in a press release. It says it also wants shops to be able to open on Sundays, as improving shopping facilities for tourists would contribute to attracting more visitors.

The proposal, which the government has put forward for public consultation, has drawn a negative reaction from trade unions, shopkeepers and supermarkets.

But Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou last month dismissed concerns over the fate of small shops. “The measure is already applied in all European Union countries and in practice offers better prices and service to consumers and more jobs for the unemployed… The fixed ideas of the past have led the country to have the worst record regarding unemployment and inflation among all EU countries,” he said.

Following consultations with the hoteliers, the Hellenic Tourism Organization said it would press for the extension of museum visiting hours to 10 p.m., with a view to bolstering the region’s facilities for visitors.

Hoteliers also raised the issue of allowing the use of designated cultural and historical sites for conferences, as elsewhere in Europe, after receiving complaints from tour operators who have lost business after having applications turned down. The tourism organization also says it will consider a proposal by hoteliers to set up a special bureau that will handle such events.

Meanwhile, the Athens Association of Hoteliers has expressed worry about the decline in Attica hotel occupancy following last summer’s Olympic Games. In a statement issued this week, the association notes that comparative statistical data of occupancy and prices in the top three hotel classes (those with 3, 4 and 5 stars) in Athens with other European capitals show that instead of the Greek capital closing the gap, the non-Greek destinations are increasing both in occupancy and in prices.

“The economic data on the operation of Athens hotels in the first five post-Olympic months are disappointing,” the hoteliers suggest as Athens in January 2005 had the worst average occupancy rate in Europe (42.9 percent), down by 8.8 percent compared to the same month last year.

Attica’s occupancy rate is smaller by one fifth compared to the European average in major cities (53.6 percent).

Hotel owners point out that in terms of prices, Athens in the last couple of years has been the only capital whose average hotel room rate is below 100 euros (99.53 euros), while the equivalent in Europe is 139.63 euros on average – more than 40 percent higher than hotels in Attica.

“Attica hotel capacity is admittedly and objectively one of the best in Europe, but judging from the above data, that is not enough in itself to secure the sector’s survival,” the association claimed, considering “the state’s action and support essential and vital,” so as to “eliminate all the counter incentives that have burdened the development of tourism in Attica. Besides any long-term action, more interventions are needed of corrective character and with direct effect before the situation becomes irreversible,” the hoteliers recommend.

In the run-up to the Olympics, more than 1.7 billion euros was invested in the capital’s hotels.

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