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Greek Coalition Government Formed, Tourism Unsteady

New Democracy head Antonis Samaras was sworn in as Greece’s prime minister last month (20 June) in a three-party coalition government following Greece’s second round of national elections on 17 June.

New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left political parties compose the new coalition government that will uphold Greece’s international bailout commitments. The development ended doubts over Greece’s future in the Eurozone.

According to the new coalition cabinet, an independent Tourism Ministry stands once again. Olga Kefalogianni has been appointed Tourism Minister.

Prior to the formation of the new Greek Government, the president of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), Andreas Andreadis, called for the newly elected political forces not to disappoint the tourism sector. “The 760,000 families of the country’s tourism can now have hope again,” he said.

Mr. Andreadis stressed that the Greek people “are entitled to a worthy government,” capable of assisting the country during these hard times. “Tourism will be a protagonist in this effort as it will help with certainty to start development with the addition of three points to the country’s GDP and thousands of new jobs over the next two years,” he said.

Two weeks prior to Greece’s repeat elections on 17 June, SETE’s president predicted that Greek tourism revenue would most likely drop 10-15 percent this year.

The start of the summer season for Greek tourism last month was seriously affected due to the political instability that emerged from the first round of elections on 6 May as the country failed to form a cohesive government (voters backed parties opposed to the EU/IMF deal). The dead end of the elections sparked speculation in regards to a Euro exit and social unrest.

Since then international bookings were said to have plunged by 50 percent.

In the first five months of the year international arrivals to Greece dropped 5.1 percent to 2.27 million against 2.39 million last year, recent data from 13 Greek airports showed.

According to the president of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA), Yiorgos Telonis, after the elections of 6 May, Greece was displayed daily in a very negative manner by the international media and its image as a safe destination was distorted.

Greece’s image as a country that lacked a stable government also led to hotel booking cancellations in May and June, according to the president of the Hellenic Federation of Hoteliers, Yiannis Retsos.

In a meeting with tourism journalists in late May, the federation’s president said Greece had already “lost two million tourists” as hotel cancellations occurred on a daily basis.

Based on experience of previous years, he said that Greek hotels usually counted some three million bookings during the May-June period. “We have to wait and see the flow of bookings after the 17 June elections,” he told journalists.

Olga Kefalogianni, Tourism Minister

Olga Kefalogianni was born and raised in Athens in 1975. She is an attorney at law by profession.

In 1997 she obtained her Bachelor degree in Law at the National Kapodistrian University of Athens. She holds a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in the field of commercial and business law and a second master’s degree in international relations.

She began her professional career in 1997, as a trainee lawyer and has worked as an attorney at law in major law firms in Athens and New York, US.

From May 2004 until September 2006, she served as legal advisor to the Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

In the elections of 2007 and 2009 she was elected to represent the prefecture of Rethymno as a member of parliament for New Democracy. In December 2009 she was put in charge of tourism affairs.

She is married to Manos Pentheroudakis.

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