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Greece’s Tarnished Image Puts 2012 Tourism In Limbo

“There are many Germans who are afraid to come to Greece,” Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Yeroulanos informed Greece’s head of state President Carolos Papoulias last month after his visit to the 46th ITB Berlin travel trade show in Germany.

Mr. Yeroulanos told the country’s head of state president that the Germans feel unwelcome in Greece and that the specific climate must change.

Prior to his visit to ITB Berlin, the culture and tourism minister had told the Greek press that it would be very difficult to reach the figures of last year’s tourism season due to the negative publicity Greece has received from the international media.

However, when he returned from Germany, the minister said he did not expect to face such a negative climate in Berlin during his visit.

“German bookings are down some 30 percent compared with the same period last year,” he told Greek tourism journalists.

The minister added that bookings from the UK had dropped some 10 percent, while those from the Netherlands, Finland and Luxembourg had also reached a double-digit figure.

“It seems that Greek tourism is hanging by a thread this year,” he stressed.

Greek tourism saw a record year in 2011 as international arrivals totaled 16,427,247 last year, up 9.46 percent from 2010, surpassing the previous record of 16,165,265 tourists in 2007, according to data from the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE).

However, last month the association released data that showed a 6.7 percent year-on-year drop in international arrivals for the first two months of the year, amounting to 360,931.

Meanwhile, in regards to Athens, following the incidents that took place in the city center during February, tourism professionals have predicted one of the “worst seasons in years.

“The destruction of Athens that Sunday (19 February), for the umpteenth time since December 2008, besides the harsh reality of the damage, sends a message abroad that the capital of our country and hence Greece itself is socially insecure and unstable,” the president of the Hellenic Federation of Hoteliers, Yiannis Retsos, told the press.

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According to SETE’s data, international arrivals to Athens in the January-February 2012 period showed a 10.7 percent annual drop. Thessaloniki, on the other hand, saw an 8.9 percent increase.

In regards to the “sad events” of 12 and 19 February, the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA) sent letters to the Greek Prime Minister and relevant ministers to organize a mechanism to issue responsible responses on behalf of the Greek state and promote positive news in the international media through Greek Embassies and Greek National Tourism Organization offices abroad.

The General Pan-Hellenic Federation of Tourism Enterprises (GEPOET) was on the same wavelength when it requested that the Culture and Tourism Ministry activate the Crisis Management Committee (formed two years ago) to formulate a communication strategy for the foreign media.

Ministry’s Response To Greece’s Negative Publicity
In regards to Greece’s negative image in the international media, Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Yeroulanos informed journalists that the ministry has requested funds from the Finance Ministry to hire two public relations firms with an aim to reverse the negative climate in the German and UK markets.

Also, according to reports, the ministry is also involved in another image revamp campaign that will “recruit” Greek citizens to tell “their story” through TV spots that will run in Germany and other European countries.

As well, for the German market, reports say the above campaign is supported by SETE in cooperation with the Bundesverein der deutschen Tourismus Wirtschaft (Federal Association of German Tourism).

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