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Only ¼ of the hotels in Athens were full during the Christmas and New Year holidays

04 January 2011 / 11:01:30  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

According to recent studies that were presented at the annual general meeting of the Association of Hoteliers in Athens and Athens, the Greek capital remains popular and preferred tourist destination. Despite the problems, and poor economic situation in the past year over 90% of the visitors said they would recommend it to their friends or they themselves will visit Athens again. Meanwhile, hoteliers reported a decline in the number of their clients, for which decline they say is to blame "the negative and often unfair picture that presented for Athens Greek and foreign media".

In the days before Christmas and New Year the Greek capital was in the grip of the public transportation strikes that caused a big drop in the turnover of shops in the center of the city. However, how did this affect tourism? The questions of GRReporter were answered by Nikos Kelaiditis, a board member of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA).

Mr. Kelaiditis, how many tourists visited Athens during the past holidays?

We still don’t have available very specific data, but judging by the hotel reservations and participation in excursions influx of tourists is significantly lower than the same period in 2009.

What is the reason for that?

I think that it is mostly due to the clashes between demonstrators and police. They were not so big and serious, but people from abroad saw on their TVs strikes and protests. Furthermore, employees in urban transport were striking and continue to do so. This is one of the most important reasons to have such a slow stream of tourists.

Does this reduction affect the domestic tourism?

We noticed a reduction in the influx of visitors from the countryside. Very few of them chose to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays in Athens. This is not only because of the strikes in public transport, although in this case they are one of the important reasons.

The tide in domestic tourism is due to the ugly picture of Athens in terms of cleanliness in the streets and the lack of Christmas decoration. Athens has an unjustified feel of misery about it, not only because of the economic crisis. I can not believe that the municipal or state budget will be affected all that much, if one city is slightly more ornate.

In Athens, did not take place not one event, not a single concert. The decoration for Christmas and New Year holidays was very small and it was not throughout the city center. There wasn’t even a Christmas tree. From the municipality they just threw some lights to blink on a cypress on Syntagma Square. Not even the "Christmas villages", which we saw in previous years were built. There was only a small bazaar and an amusement park next to Zappeio and the National Garden.

Even the clubs and restaurants with live Greek music were at the most 2-3 in a week, and this applies to those in which sing the so-called "big companies". For so many days they were open also during the holidays, while in past years during the holidays restaurants worked at least five nights a week.

Previous years here came to perform artists from abroad. Our singers participated in small outdoor concerts. This year as far as I understand they wee not even invited because of the payment, but also because Athens was literally abandoned to its destiny.

Did you bring this issue to the municipality?

In a phone call I made to the municipality I was told that they have not decorated a Christmas tree, because they feared it could be put on fire during the protest marches. This to me is a frivolous excuse.

And here I must say that the current leadership of the municipality did nothing to bring a touch of joy in the city, especially in this difficult economic period. They left the waste on the streets and collected them only at very central locations. This picture, along with the financial difficulties contributed to the fact that the city has only a feel of pessimism about it. As a result, neither within the country nor abroad was sent the message that Athens is a city where you can come to celebrate and have fun.

Traditionally in this period we had many visitors from Cyprus. This year, however, very few Cypriots came. In my conversation with a large tour operator company I was told that the reasons are three. First, the strikes. Second, the lack of decoration. Third, as strange as it sounds, because Athens is not cold and the weather reminds them a lot of Nicosia. If the weather was different we would have a little more visitors from Cyprus, but in no case as much as we had come in recent years.

Do you have information about hotel reservations?

As a result of everything mentioned only ¼ of the hotels are full, although they offered very good deals to attract customers. And what I am saying is probably very optimistic. The prices of hotel restaurants and holiday programs are also cheaper compared to past years, but they failed to fill.

How do you see things going in the future?

Judging by the hotel reservations overall impression is that the tourism market will be "revived" from March onwards. For the period until then forecasts are not optimistic.

Tags: economy tourism hotels
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