Important markets to Greek tourism would not be left without a Greek National Tourism Office but mergers are to occur where two or more offices serve a single region, Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou recently assured Greek journalists.
The deputy minister said the Culture and Tourism Ministry would decide which of the 29 GNTO offices abroad would close following the results of an in-depth study to determine “what exactly each office has produced.”
According to Mrs. Gerekou, the ministry aims to reduce the high costs of the offices abroad as 2009 figures showed that the GNTO spent some 15 million euros on operational costs and staff salaries without including advertising and promotional costs.
For 2010 the cost of the GNTO offices abroad has been estimated to reach 17 million euros, while debts for exhibition pavilion constructions for 2008 and 2009 stand at eight million euros.
The deputy minister added that expenses for the salaries of the 23 GNTO office directors add up to an annual 2.3 million euros while office costs (rent, electricity, telephones and staff salaries) amount to an annual 10.37 million euros.
Mrs. Gerekou stressed that the ministry is determined to put an end to the rampant state of spending -a tactic introduced by the previous administration- without jeopardizing the advertising of Greece abroad.
In addition, the deputy minister mentioned the intentions of the ministry to promote Greece in new markets through GNTO offices where there is particular demand for the Greek tourism product, such as India and Poland.
“Our goal is for Greece to gain reliability of the markets both domestically and abroad,” she concluded.
These developments came after Prime Minister Yiorgos Papandreou recently announced measures of reducing government expenditure. Among the measures is the closing of one-third of the GNTO offices abroad (some 10 offices) and press offices abroad, which are to be incorporated in Greek embassies.
The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) gave a negative response to the government’s decision to close GNTO office’s abroad.
In an announcement, SETE said that “this hasty decision” has been taken under the logic of directly reducing Greek government expenses while no consideration was actually given to Greek tourism.
SETE said that the announcement of the closure of GNTO offices has sent out a negative message to foreign companies the association works with, this way harming already negative sentiment.
The Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA) expressed its satisfaction in regards to the intention of setting up a GNTO office in the “new and promising market” of India.
However, HATTA remarked that the GNTO must cover all key tourism markets and that there are many ways to achieve satisfactory results at a reasonable cost.
“The main problem of the GNTO offices abroad is quality,” HATTA said.
The association underlined that the lack of a specialized marketing strategy for each market along with the inappropriate staffing and operation of the offices abroad are just some of the reasons of the limited promotion of Greek tourism overseas.
“There must not be any more experiments with the GNTO offices abroad,” HATTA concluded.