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Greece's expensive image a turn-off for tourists

Posted: Wednesday June 2, 2004 3:21PM; Updated: Wednesday June 2, 2004 3:35PM
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ATHENS, June 2 (Reuters) -- Greece's image as an expensive holiday destination is driving visitors away, deflating hopes of a tourism boom on the back of the Olympic Games, a Greek tourism body said on Wednesday.

"The picture of an expensive destination ... has led to a drop in arrivals," Stavros Andreadis, head of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) said at the body's annual meeting.

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He did not give figures for the drop in tourist arrivals.

Last month, the head of the country's tourism authority EOT said some hotels were raising prices by seven to eight times in a bid to cash in on August's Olympic Games.

While around 90 percent of the capital's hotel rooms have been pledged to games organisers ATHOC at fixed rates, tourism professionals said the remaining hotels were seeking short-term gains with exorbitant price rises.

Grumbles over prices extend to many basic goods, from the humble frappe, or iced coffee, to the entrance charges for public beaches near Athens.

Security worries and delays in construction projects have also reduced the likelihood of the Games being the catalyst that will turn the Greek tourism industry around after several years of decline.

SETE was gloomy about this year's outlook.

"This year's course up to now has been characterised by declines in all basic indicators ... first and foremost revenues," Andreadis added.

With two months to go until the Games start on August 13, lower-than-expected ticket sales hint that interest for the event is lower than organisers hoped.

Tourism accounts for 18 percent of Greece's total output, which the government wants to increase to 35-40 percent in the next decade. The industry employs about 800,000 people around the country.

Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.


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