“In Athens we have a problem, it is the black hole of our tourism and this is where we must focus our full attention in the coming year,” Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos said during an interview last month.
“Hotels there are not bad, but what one faces in the center of Athens is unacceptable,” the minister said in regards to the city center’s dodgy image. The minister added that tourism in Athens would be next year’s “great challenge.”
In late August the culture and tourism minister had stressed that the issues troubling Athens (muggings, narcotics, illegal prostitution) are not problems of just one ministry and that a team effort is needed for the revival of the city center.
Mr. Geroulanos held a meeting recently with Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis and created a common agenda that included the unification of archaeological sites, the upgrade of Plato’s Academy, the development of a City Pass program and a series of cultural events in squares and streets of the city center that are free to the public until November.
Athens Airport Too Expensive
Mr. Geroulanos also told the Greek press that one of the reasons Athens suffers from lack of tourism is the 36 euro fee passengers are obliged to pay just to land at the Eleftherios Venizelos airport, while in Barcelona the fee is 18 euros.
“Eleftherios Venizelos is the second most expensive airport in Europe,” he said.
According to recent data, in the first eight months of 2011 Athens International Airport was the only Greek airport to show a decline in international arrivals (0.86 percent).
Press reports said the management contract of the airport was recently extended under the existing conditions and so “the very expensive airport taxes have been kept intact, which make the Eleftherios Venizelos unattractive for new airlines.”