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Tourism Falls Victim To Greece’s Political Scene

International bookings dropped some 50 percent only a few days after Greece’s general elections, according to Andreas Andreadis, president of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE).

Greece held parliamentary elections on 6 May and failed to pull together a cohesive government as two-thirds of Greek voters backed parties opposed to theEU/IMF deal. This turn of events caused the country to become plagued by rumors of a eurozone departure.

The Greek elections were full of surprises as Greece’s left-wing Syriza came second in the election (16.8 percent of the vote) following New Democracy that came in first with an 18.5 percent share. In third place was Pasok, on 13.2 percent.

Speaking to Greek journalists last month, SETE’s president, Mr. Andreadis, said such a development was an obstacle in reversing the already negative image Greece has in the German, UK and French markets.

He conveyed the frustration of Greece’s tourism world for the level of public dialogue and stressed that political leaders should rise to the occasion.

Shortly before the general elections, the Bank of Greece released data in regards to the first two months of 2012 that more or less ruled out the chance of Greece achieving targets set for tourism that referred to some 16 million international arrivals and 10 billion euros in revenue this year.

The data said tourism revenue fell 44.7 percent year-onyear in Greece for January and February, compared to the same period last year. The bank said that in February alone revenues from tourism had dropped 35.3 percent.

In the first four months of the year international arrivals to Greece dropped 3.7 percent to 1.09 million, according to recent data from 13 Greek airports that provide 95 percent of air arrivals from abroad. In Athens alone, a decline of 12 percent was recorded during the January-April 2012 period.

[Last year was labelled a recovery for Greek tourism with a record 16.4 million visitors (up 9.5 percent from 15 million in 2010) that brought in revenue of 10.5 billion euros (up by 9.5 percent from 9.6 billion euros in 2010).]

After the elections, the Hellenic Association of Tourist and Travel Agencies said international tourism markets were showing signs of “anxiety.”

According to an announcement, foreign tour operators withdrew partners from Greece, froze contracts with Greek tourism enterprises and are on standby until the situation stabilizes.

Reports said last month that a 20 percent drop was recorded in the German market to Greece, while reductions from the UK (due to the crisis of the British economy) were between five and 10 percent. (Last year Germany was Greece’s biggest source market with 2.2 million visitors and 1.8 billion euros in spending.)

In regards to the low bookings from France, tourism professionals said the French were returning to their traditional holiday spots of Tunisia and Morocco.

However, bookings to Greece from new and emerging markets have shown an increase, but Greek tourism professionals said they couldn’t cover the reductions recorded from traditional markets.

Bookings from Russia and Ukraine last month showed an increase of 20-30 percent and arrivals from the Israeli and Turkish markets also recorded double-digit figures.

The lack of tourism promotion also was said to have “assisted” to maintain the negative image of destination Greece to the country’s markets.

In regards to international tourism, arrivals grew by 5.7 percent in the first two months of 2012. Demand remained strong in both advanced and emerging economy destinations, despite economic constraints in many of the source markets of Europe and North America.

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