ATHENS – Greece’s Tourism ministry was examining ways and plans to improve the image and operation of the country’s airports and harbours with the aim to maximise benefits for the tourism sector, Tourism Deputy Minister Anastasios Liaskos said on Thursday.
Addressing an international conference on transport, technology and the tourism industry TRANSTEC 2004, held at the Athens Hilton hotel, Liaskos said that the country needed to improve the image and operation of its airports and sea ports and to achieve a combined interconnection between airplane and fast ferries, particularly during the summer months, with the aim to cover the largest tourist destinations in the country possible and to have a balanced tourist development.
The Greek minister said the ministry -in cooperation with other ministries- was drafting a new strategy on transport to facilitate tourism. The new strategy envisages plans to build new airports in new tourist destinations (Naxos, Tripoli, etc), accelerating works to improve a national road network, seeking an EU approval to a plan to have the E 10 road axis (linking Munich with Thessaloniki) turned into a closed road helping to boost tourism in Northern Greece. The new strategy also envisages co-funding of building a series of vertical roads linking Egnatia Road with the capitals of neighbouring countries and a series of small-scale projects around the country to improve quality of the country’s tourist product.
The success of the Olympic Games is not panakea, nor absolution for past mistakes or an hybrid of the necessary policies to boost the tourism sector, the Institute for Touristic Research and Forecasts (ITEP) said on Thursdsay. Commenting on the Olympic Games, ITEP said its success led to dangerous fantasies and urged the government to be more cautious.
“The Games can be an automated pilot -not for high flights- only short-term,” ITEP said in a report. The Institute urged for the immediate solution of problems facing the sector and warned that if such an effort failed the country’s tourism sector could face another downfall year in 2005. “Other competitor countries are recording record growth rates in tourism because their care for their product quality and they offer it at justified prices,” ITEP stressed.
Greece must act as if the Olympic Games had never happened, ITEP said, or else the country could end up losing in tourism, leaving only the shipping sector as the only hope for future development and foreign exchange earner.
The favourable impact of the Athens 2004 Olympics on the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to total more than 25 billion euros in 2000-2008, with the repercussions extending beyond 2010 if domestic firms seize opportunities offered by Greece’s one-off global exposure during the games.
Another advantage for business is the infrastructure that has been built in connection with the games, the Athens-quoted bank said in a market report.
Exports in 2004-2008 are expected to rise by an average annual 4.5-5.5 percent due to the Olympics against an increase of 2.2-2.5 percent if the capital had not hosted the games, the report said.
At the same time, growth in imports of goods and services would rise sparked by the Olympics, but not enough to negate the increase in exports, Alpha’s research department noted.
Tourist arrivals could rise to 18-20 million annually towards the end of the decade from 13 million at present as improvements in infrastructure and accomodation triggered by the games could serve their needs, especially in Attica, the report added.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Greek industrialists agreed at a meeting on Friday that, in the wake of the Olympics, the economy needs a period of steady transition and not harsh financial measures.
After the meeting, the president of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, declared himself pleased with the outcome of talks and stated that Greece had an historic opportunity to maintain the outgoing economic climate created in the country during the successful Athens Games.
“The economy demands logical moves which will make our country more competitive and more attractive. The eradication of bureaucracy and waste, limits on expenditure and order in the public sector are priorities,” said Kyriakopoulos.
He added the government would need to come up with incentives to generate foreign investment in Greece. Kyriakopoulos said he did not discuss the social security problem with Karamanlis and admitted it did not seem to be one of the government’s priorities at the moment.
Karamanlis was meeting with the industrialists yesterday as part of his program before making a keynote speech on the future of the Greek economy at the Thessaloniki International Fair next weekend.
He also met with heads of the country’s two largest unions — the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) and the civil servants’ federation ADEDY on Thursday.
There are unlikely to be any surprises in Karamanlis’s Thessaloniki speech. He will announce that the government’s economic policy aims to reduce the public deficit to 2.8 per cent of gross domestic product while achieving New Democracy’s pledges such as giving civil servants pay rises above inflation and introducing no new taxes. He will also give emphasis to the need for development in the countryside and a privatization program worth 1.6 billion euros.