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Athens’s Bad Image Hurts City Hotels

Athens-Attica & Argosaronic Hotel Association's press conference.

Athens-Attica & Argosaronic Hotel Association’s press conference.

Occupancy and revenue for hotels in Athens plunged last year and the number of units that have closed down over the past three years has reached 41, according to data released at a press conference held today, Wednesday, 30 January, by the Athens-Attica & Argosaronic Hotel Association.

The data, compiled in collaboration with GBR Consulting, was in regards to the performance of Athenian hotels over the past five years (2007-2012).

In 2012, the average occupancy rate of two-, three-, four- and five-star hotels in Athens recorded a 31.9 percent decline (since 2007) and dropped to 55 percent. Meanwhile, the average price per room saw an 11.8 percent drop (it now stands at 83 euros) and the revenue per available room declined by 39.9 percent (it now stands at 41.7 euros).

Also, international arrivals to Athens International Airport dropped 27 percent last year compared to 2007.

Alexandros Vasilikos, president of the Athens-Attica & Argosaronic Hotel Association.

Alexandros Vasilikos, president of the Athens-Attica & Argosaronic Hotel Association.

“The sustainability of Athenian hotels has become a major issue as units of all categories over the past years have closed one after the other under the pressure of the crisis, high operating costs, ongoing defamation of the destination, lack of customers and lack of political will to deal decisively with the problems and shortcomings of the capital,” the president of the association, Alexandros Vasilikos, stressed.

However, Mr. Vasilikos said that under certain conditions, tourism in Athens may at least become stable in 2013, despite the downward trend recorded in bookings this month.

For this to be accomplished, according to Mr. Vasilikos, political stability is required and “we must stop supplying the international media with negative images (strikes and riots in Athens).

“If the capital’s negative image is not reversed, it will eventually influence any positive performance presented by the Greek regions,” he stressed.

Solutions

According to the association, Athens must “turn a new page” and promote a positive and targeted image of the destination and the Greek Government must finally make the necessary decisions on pending issues that existed before the crisis:

  • Set a new pricing policy of Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”
  • Improve the historical and commercial center of Athens
  • Improve the degraded “tourist streets” of the city
  • Establish a “unified ticket” for public transport and entrance to museums and archaeological sites
  • Create the long-awaited Athens Conference Center
  • Boost cruise and marine tourism

Athens’ “hidden ace”

Mr. Vasilikos informed that the association intends to promote the Argosaronic Gulf and noted that although it is one of Attica’s strong competitive advantages (access to a crystal clear beach on Aegina, for example, is only a half hour ferry ride from the city), it have never been evaluated and promoted sufficiently to foreign markets. (The Argosaronic Gulf consists of small Greek islands such as Aegina, Spetses, Hydra and Poros.)

“Athens needs the Argosaronic Gulf and the Argosaronic Gulf needs Athens,” he said.

The association has already developed actions (fam trips for foreign tour operators and journalists) and synergies with stakeholders to increase international interest to the destination.

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