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New Tourism Investment Infrastructure Interest

According to local press reports, foreign investors and large foreign enterprises are targeting some of the most important Greek ports and all airports, expecting that the country’s tourism development will continue and expand, in particular into the winter season.

For instance, one of the airports presently drawing strong interest is that of Kalamata, which serves the broader area of the Peloponnese but is not in close proximity to large resorts and installations.

The government is favorably disposed toward these overtures by foreign investors, as the revenues likely to accrue are estimated as significant. The finance ministry estimates it could collect about 3-4 billion euros from the further development of ports and airports and this would amount to a hefty contribution toward the relief of the country’s high public debt.

The government also claims that there is strong interest in the privatization of Olympic Airlines, particularly as it hopes that Brussels will soon approve the return of 586 million euros that the carrier is claiming from the government.

Meanwhile, local travel professionals foresee 2007 as an excellent year for tourism arrivals. They say they expect yet another bumper tourist season this year, despite the strong euro, as investment in an international advertising campaign, refurbished hotels and better services pay off.

Greek tourism has already recorded back-to-back growth in 2005 and 2006 and officials say this year could see more of the same despite a strong euro that makes non-EU countries and traditional rivals like Turkey and Egypt more attractive.

“The indications are good for this season and there will definitely be a rise compared to last year,” said Yiannis Evangelou, president of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies.

He said the biggest increase, as much as 50 percent, could come from U.S. visitors, boosted by new and more direct flights from America. Last year some 230,000 Americans visited the country, up from 160,000 in 2005.

An estimated 20 percent more Russians are also expected this year over the 200,000 who came to Greece last year, he said.

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