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WTM Participants Foresee Double-digit Tourism Increase for Greece

WTM 2005Greek tourism is expected to record a back-to-back rise in 2006 following this year’s bumper season, which saw an estimated 10 percent increase after years of decline, according to tourism professionals who visited last month’s World Travel Market held in London.

Greece’s tourism officials say early signs point to yet another rise in tourism arrivals, “and tourism receipts are set to rise thanks to a bigger ad campaign, improved services and the successful Olympic Games,” they said.

With about 14 million visitors to its islands and newly built conference centers in 2005, officials estimate the number of arrivals next year to exceed 15 million. They feel the biggest rise for the coming year will be again for higher-category accommodation and higher-quality products, such as conferences, cruises, real estate travel.

Greece also increased its 2005 advertising budget tenfold to over 40 million euros in a bid to capitalize on the exposure the country got during the Games. Tourism ministry officials said next year’s budget would be hiked by 50 percent to about 60 million euros to boost an industry that employs 800,000 people in a country of 11 million, making up 18 percent of GDP. Greek hoteliers were also upbeat the rebound in arrivals in 2005 will be equally strong next year.

Meanwhile, according to the World Tourism Market’s annual tourism growth forecast for Europe, which was released during the fair, European inbound and outbound tourism is expected to grow by 4% in 2005, in terms of trip volume, and by 2-3% in 2006.

Other forecasts cited in the study include:

– The growth in international tourism receipts and expenditure on travel will be slightly lower due to the forecast continuation of the trend for shorter, but more frequent trips.

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– The industry can no longer expect a ‘normal’ year for travel and tourism. Terrorism, natural disasters, health crises and other challenges are here to stay.

– Major events in Europe, such as the FIFA World Football Cup in Germany and the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, should boost tourism in 2006. But past experience has shown that big events often have the opposite impact.

With regards to the purpose of travel next year, the study showed that leisure travel continues to be the main driver of growth, thanks in large part to the no-frills airlines, with city trips/breaks expected to increase their dominance of the European short-haul market.

And while it says that business travel is recovering, it notes that there are big changes in the market. Decisions are increasingly being taken by financial rather than marketing directors, and there are signs that the value of business tourism is declining in some countries. Incentive travel is increasingly combined with business meetings to justify costs, save on tax and maximize employee motivation.

Impediments to tourism growth, according to the study, include visas, which continue to be a major impediment to growth – not just the requirement for visas, but also the lengthy bureaucratic procedures and high costs involved in obtaining visas.

As well, it says that increased online booking has resulted in tour operators in some markets downsizing their hard copy brochures. And this has primarily affected smaller destinations in Europe that have been dropped from the brochures.

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