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Greek tourism industry in the hands of domestic visitors

03 August 2009 / 18:08:46  GRReporter
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The Greek tourism industry now counts on domestic guests to save their season, following an average drop of 10% in foreign visitors for the first six months of the year. The most significant drop was felt in June, when foreign tourists were some 18% less compared to last year. The drop in revenue from tourism - the money that visitors are willing to spent on their vacation - is even more drastic. This June saw an 18% fall in turnover, mainly due to the shortened vacation periods and the limited amount of money tourists were ready to forgo on their holiday.

Given that tourism comprises a significant proportion of Greece's GDP, exceeding 18%, which for 2008 amounted to €11.5 billion, a plunge of around 20% in turnover will pile up to €2 billion in losses, with experts predicting that hotels will bear €1.4 billion of them. As a result, hotel owners have already slashed their prices with 20%, but reservations are still on the down, with tour-operators pressing owners for further price-cuts. People in the industry had realized that July will be weak ever since the beginning of the month and their only hope is based on the usual wave of tourists in August. However large the wave is, hotel owners don't even expect to compensate for the losses of the past six months.

According to data published by the Association of Greek Hotel Owners, the biggest drop in reservations was recorded at Patmos island - some 25% less compared to last year. Patmos is a part of the Dodecanese Archipelagos, and was occupied mostly by Greek tourists for years. In the last few summers, Patmos' popularity among foreigners was on the increase, but then came the credit crunch. Tourists from Holland can now afford a stay of only three days, while Italian visitors vacate for a week. Tour-operators have removed packages of more than a week from their web-sites as demand has plunged drastically. Hotels are now mostly filled with Greek tourists, which take advantage of the 20% price-cuts.

Things are not much different at Corfu island, with the "usual suspects" from Great Britain, Germany, and Italy not to be seen anywhere. An increase in Czech and Hungarian tourists is observed, totaling together at between 2000 and 3000 people per month. Even their stay is shorter though, as they spend one week at the island rather than two. There has also been an increase in demand from Northern Greece for the period of 20 July - 20 August, which is explained by the opening of Egnatia Odos, which facilitates access to the Igoumenitsa port, where most of the ferries to Corfu depart from. All-inclusive packages are thought to be another reason for the increased interest, which however means that although the number of tourists is increasing, the revenue for hotel owners is 20% less.

The beautiful island of Rodos has also recorded a fall in demand from British tourists. Visitors from Germany are also decreasing, but at a slower pace, while Russian guests are on the up, although insignificantly. For the entire 2008, there were only 40 000 Russian tourists. The plunging demand from Italian tourists is explained by the current crisis that Italian tour operators are experiencing. This year, Rodos is running its own marketing campaign, advertising its 20% price-cuts. Nonetheless, foreigners are reluctant to spend. It's actually Greek guests from higher social ranks that spend the most at Rodos, staying reasonably longer - from 10 to 14 days.

The island of Cephalonia has seen a fall of 22% in the usual tourists from Britain, Holland, and Slovenia. A slight increase is observed in Italian tourists but in general, guests have limited their stay to a week, and don't spend as much. Greek tourists, on the other hand, prefer visiting the island on weekends, which explains the price-cuts for ferry tickets of 20%. The island is served by 19 different lines a day, departing from 5 different ports around Greece.

The Association of Hotel Owners has revealed that July has seen Halkidiki's hotel-room capacity filled at only 70%, compared to last year when it was at 90% in the same month. Visits have fallen by 20%, with the biggest drop recorded in foreign tourists. Guests from Britain and Russia have plunged dramatically - 29%, while Germans have only fallen 8%. Tourists from Bulgaria and Romania are also losing their interest, although at a slower rate. Serbian and Macedonian visitors have remained relatively at same numbers compared to last year, while the Polish are increasing. Members of the Association have sent an appeal to the Greek government, asking for visas for Serbian and other tourists from the Western Balkans to be removed, which would supposedly revive the demand for holidays in Northern Greece.

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