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Opinions Vary On 2012 Greek Tourism Growth

“Tourism went well this year,” Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Yeroulanos said during an interview to the Greek press in late December.

“We had an increase that helped us and we broke the record of all time, even that of 2007, which was the best year for Greek tourism,” he said.

Greece is said to have experienced a record in international arrivals for 2011 and reached 16.5 million—an increase of 10 percent. Last year’s tourism revenue is also expected to show a 10 percent increase, a figure equivalent to a one percent increase in GDP, according to tourism professionals.

The Bank of Greece also reported that last year tourists spent more on Greek island holidays with tourism receipts up by 12.6 percent on 2010.

According to the latest data compiled by the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) from 13 of the country’s major airports, Greece experienced an 8.65 percent increase in international arrivals for 2011 compared with 2010. For the January-December 2011 period arrivals amounted to 11,528,782 tourists, up from 10,611,219 in 2010.

Although official data on the progress of Greek tourism for 2011 has yet to be released, it would be safe to say that the Greek tourism industry showed an improvement last year. But what about 2012?

The culture and tourism minister recently said that he expects Greece “to do better” this year.

Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) President Kostas Zikos told the media that the organization would operate via a budget similar to last year’s (10 million euros) for Greece’s promotion this year.

However, tourism professionals have expressed doubts in regards to Greece’s promotion abroad this year due to the small amount of funds.

According to the General Panhellenic Federation of Tourism Enterprises (GEPOET), the Greek Government rejected the GNTO’s request for extra funds (the GNTO reportedly requested 30 million euros for promotion and advertising needs).

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“This creates questions since Prime Minister Lucas Papademos had highlighted tourism’s contribution to the Greek economy,” the federation said in a press release.

GEPOET also said recently that the first signs for this year’s tourism were “ominous” and predicted that businesses would close down in Athens.

Yiorgos Telonis, president of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA), told GTP that despite the problems it had to tackle, Greek tourism not only survived 2011 but moved positively both in arrivals and revenue.

Mr. Telonis said that due to the economic crisis, Europeans -Greece’s main market- are expected to travel less in 2012.

Moreover, he said North African countries are making a dynamic comeback in the market again and are expected to claim a large percentage of their past arrivals.

According to HATTA’s president, the VAT reduction on travel package services and faster procedures for the issuance of visas are the main factors to improve Greece’s competitiveness and guarantee the success of tourism this year.

On the subject of early bookings for 2012, the president of the Hellenic Federation of Hoteliers, Yiannis Retsos, said at the moment there is a “normal freeze” on bookings due to the general recession in Europe.

“In Greece’s case, tour operators right now are waiting to see what will happen with the pending developments in regards to the Greek debt-rescheduling negotiations and the private sector involvement plan (PSI) to be discussed between the Greek Government and the troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund),” Mr. Retsos said.

“This is something that cannot be avoided and I think is normal due to the circumstances so after February we can talk about early bookings,” he told GTP.

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