Greece sees tourism stagnate despite hosting Olympics

GREECE IS doomed to witness a decline in tourists this year despite hosting the August 13-29 Olympics, which is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, the country’s union of tourist enterprises said on Tuesday. The number of visitors was considerably falling in the first six months and the drop could be as high as eight percent.

“Tourism is continuing to be negative in 2004. If this trend does not change in the coming months the drop in arrivals could be as much as eight percent compared to last year,” the union said in a statement.

Greece attracted just under 14 million visitors in 2003.

While other Mediterranean destinations such as Turkey, Spain and Cyprus were recording a rise in visitors, Greece was set for a second consecutive annual drop in tourism, the union said.
 
Flights to popular holiday islands including Rhodes and Crete were down by about six percent while Corfu has seen a drop of about 10 percent in arrivals from January to June.

Much of the drop is attributed to the smaller pool of Americans visiting Greece since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Greek tourism officials estimate that this summer, 50,000 fewer Americans will be coming to the country than the pre-Sept. 11 average of 200,000 American visitors annually.

At the American Embassy in Athens, officials said their estimates were for as much as a 30 percent decline in the number of Americans coming to the Olympics compared with four years ago. A senior envoy at the embassy said the biggest reason was not security issues. Instead, the greater concern was the poor value of the dollar against the euro, which was making the Olympic experience a very high-priced trip.

Greek tourist officials had warned a few months ago a sharp increase in hotel prices and Greece’s overall image as an expensive holiday destination was driving visitors away, deflating hopes of a tourism boom on the back of the Games.

While some hotels in the capital have raised prices by seven to eight times in a bid to cash in on the Games, others on the Greek isles were now offering special deals.

Hotel owners across the Aegean were dropping daily rates and offering two free night for every seven nights in a bid to attract visitors.

“The government must battle profiteering which may appear during the Games so as to avoid defamation of the whole Greek tourism sector,” the union warned.

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