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Thessaloniki Forum Voices Reservations For Long-Term Tourism Benefits

Greece holds the top spot among 28 destinations in the world with 67 percent of tourists saying that this country is the most attractive place for vacations, according to a survey by the German tour operator TUI, presented at the recent 11th Thessaloniki Forum.

According to the speaker Robert McDonald, journalist for the Economist Intelligence Unit, Greece is expected to see a seven percent increase in tourism traffic in 2007 with some 15 million arrivals. With reference to this assessment made by the World Travel and Tourism Council he said, “tourism is an essential aspect of the development of the Greek economy.”

Estimates by the World Travel and Tourism Council showed that tourism contributed 34 billion euros or 17.5 percent to Greece’s gross domestic product. It also provided 16 percent of jobs.
However the long-term forecasts of the international organization anticipate the arrivals growth rate will slow to four percent per year in the next decade.

According to Mr. MacDonald: “While Greece enjoys occupancy rates of 70 to 90 percent in the summer, neighboring Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia are competitive with rates between 40 and 50 per cent. Already the basic clientele of Greece is turning towards those countries.”

Crucially, considerable investments in Greek tourism are planned that reveal foreign investors will prepare for projects worth a total 3.5 billion euros for the creation of resort complexes, with five foreign venture capital funds still static.

Mr. McDonald stressed that although Greece is seeing tremendous short-term increases in tourism traffic, the long-term outcomes are ambiguous. He suggested that there should be a complete design to place Greece as an attractive destination all year round through the promotion of alternative types of tourism, city breaks and a zoning plan.

With reference to the above, Stelios Hadji-Ioannou, head of EasyJet, urged Greece to “turn to construction of its brand, to become more recognizable and to diversify its tourism product on offer, to place emphasis on sustainable tourism development and infrastructure.” He also proposed Greece should lower the airport tax as this would immediately boost arrivals.

The 2006 data presented by TUI’s international relations director, Guenter Ihlau, showed that 70 percent of visitors to Greece come from Europe, with half of all tourists being Germans, British and Italians.

Northern Greece has seen relatively few visitors in the 1995-2002 period, but rebounded with a 15 percent increase in 2003-2006.

Stavros Andreadis, the head of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, commented on this point and claimed that “it is necessary for Thessaloniki to acquire an identity so as to become instantly recognizable abroad, as in Europe it is largely unknown.”

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