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Athens Tourism Before and After the Games

The Athens Tourism and Economic Development Company, in the context of the creation of a ‘tourism observatory’ for the City of Athens, conducted a study entitled ‘Registered Athens Tourism Study – from pre-Olympic to the post-Olympic period: The influence of the Olympic Games and the current situation, strategic priorities, prospects, challenges and future actions for the next 5 years (2008 -2012).’

The study was conducted in cooperation with the Institute of Tourism Research and Studies of the Aegean University Business Administration Department.

The purpose of the study is to offer the first comprehensive record of Athens tourism progress for the period 2000-2007 and to serve as a starting point for the tourism observatory of the City of Athens.

In addition, the study aspires to highlight the challenges and the next steps for tourism development, management and promotion of Athens in the coming years.

According to the study, prior to the Olympic Games in Athens, overnight stays in the capital and Attica presented a significant downturn, but following 2004 there was a substantial rise. Experts assert that the decline can be attributed both to external problems -such as the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks- and the economic recession in European countries, which are traditional markets for Greek tourism.

From 1998 until 2003 (excluding the year 2000) Athens faced a big decline in tourist traffic. This slump lasted throughout the pre-Olympic period and resulted in overnight stays dropping 29 percent.

Hotel occupancy in Athens and Attica followed a continuous reduction as of 2000. This decline, however, overturned in 2005 due to the positive influence of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. In 2007, all hotels that operated within the municipality of Athens secured a 60.3 percent occupancy rate. Overall, the region of the Athens prefecture ensured hotel occupancy that reached 55.65 percent last year.

However, differences were noticed in regards to hotels outside the city as the overall average occupancy was at the low level of 42.8 percent.

The pre-Olympic period was marked by a steady increase of tourists that arrived to Greece through the Athens airport, a development that continued after the Games of 2004.

According to the National Statistical Service of Greece, tourist arrivals through the airport rose from 2.8 million in 2000 to 3.7 million in 2006. Although in 2000 these arrivals were exclusively of seasonal nature, in later years this was diminished, which indicates a change of the profile of tourists visiting Greece (business travel, conference tourism, city breaks, etc.).

The Aerostat survey of the Athens International Airport saw a major increase in visits from the U.S. between 2005 and 2007, while visitors from Germany and Italy dropped. Overall, a steady rise in arrivals is apparent during the post-Olympic 2005-2007 period.

In regards to European conference tourism, the study notes a total of 3,344 international conferences in 2006. Vienna, Paris and Barcelona are seen on the top of the list in the European ranking, followed by Berlin, Budapest, Copenhagen and Prague.

Lisbon, London and Amsterdam are seen in eighth, ninth and tenth place in the European ranking, while Istanbul occupies twelfth and Athens fifteenth place.

The study concludes that infrastructure projects -directly or indirectly linked to the organization of the 2004 Olympic Games- improved both the quality of life in Athens, Attica and Piraeus. Therefore it is a strong basis for Athens to become an autonomous tourist destination.

It was determined that Athens did not benefit from tourism before the Olympic Games, as the period between 2001 and 2004 was marked by a strong tourism recession, unlike Sydney for example (Sydney, however, saw a fall in tourism after the Games). According to research, the benefits emerged immediately after the games and secured a three-year tourism growth (2005-2007).

About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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