Travel agents, hoteliers, car-rental agencies and tour operators are enthusiastic and optimistic for this year’s tourism season. They foresee yet another year of increases in arrivals and revenue.
Major tour operators here, such as TUI and Thomas Cook, say arrival increases at major Greek destinations could reach as high as 10% when compared with last year. Reasons for the increase vary from a major drop in travel to competing country Turkey to solid ground work carried out over the past few years in promoting Greece to the substantial increase in the quality of the Greek tourism product.
Greek destinations that expect major increases include Crete, Rodos, Kos Corfu, Zakynthos and Chalkidiki. Large hotel chains on Crete say real bookings are up from between 5 and 15% over last year. Hoteliers on Kos are particularly pleased with this year’s bookings. Some, such as the Kipriotis Village complex, with 2,200 beds, are fully booked for the peak summer season. The complex, like many hotels, now follows the trend of all-inclusive holidays, which is now a preference for many holidaymakers.
Greece’s busiest destination, Crete, is also doing very well. Grecotel, with six hotels on the island, says bookings are up at least 5% over last year.
John Mitssias, who runs the Sixt Rent-a-car group here in Athens, says his bookings are up by 12% this year over the year before, due not only to an increase in arrivals but also in promotional work. He said bookings from tour operators alone are up by 5% when compared with last year’s figures.
For the Athens area, 2006 looks to be a good year as well. Yiannis Retsos, secretary general of the Attica Hoteliers’ Association, says hotel bookings are up for the moment and indications are that we will have a good year, even though room rates are flat against last year, but the end result may depend on last-minute bookings.
He reminds that even though this may be a good year, it’s immaterial if the city’s tourism sector is not improved – a stand-alone conference/congress center and promotion of Athens as an ideal city-break destination.
For the month of February, for which the most recent statistics are available from the association, overnights are up appreciably, when compared with the same month last year, and initial data for March and April show the trend continues.
However, according to a benchmark study done for the association by JBR Hellas, Athens has the lowest occupancy percentage of all major European cities, including Istanbul.
For February of this year, when compared with the same month last year, Athens units posted an occupancy rate of 51.5%.
Major European cities such as Rome, Barcelona, Madrid and Istanbul posted rates of 57, 60.6, 64.2, and 53.7 respectively.
The association stresses that available statistics for the tourism sector in Greece are sorely lacking. But according to the little that’s available, it appears that for the first two months of this year arrivals and revenue have increased by some 5% against the same figures posted for the same period last year. It adds that the high increases come from three- and four-star hotel units.
It reminds as well that Greece should have adopted the European Union’s satellite account method years ago, but it’s still not too late.
The Tourism Satellite Account provides information about the economic contribution of tourism to gross domestic product. It includes measurement of expenditure on tourism by domestic and international tourists, and the size of the industry, including its contribution to GDP and employment.
The Tourism Satellite Account is produced regularly, and is linked to a country’s national accounts. The TSA is a statistical instrument, a “satellite” revolving around the concepts, definitions and aggregates of the system of national accounts. Such a system makes it possible to make valid comparisons with other industries, as well as between countries or groups of countries.
But the TSA is much more than that: it is also a powerful database that makes it possible to quantify tourism’s economic impacts.
This function, however, entails the constant collaboration of national tourism administrations with other government ministries and bodies (such as central banks, national statistical offices, ministries of finance, and migration authorities).