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Hoteliers: Greece Lost Olympic Opportunity

October 8, 2003

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Hotel owners have a complaint: Tourism has not received a bounce from the Olympics, leaving many hotel rooms vacant the year before the games.

``This was supposed to be our big opportunity ... in promotion, linking the Olympics to tourism and we missed it,″ said Giorgos Tsakiris, head of the Attica Hoteliers Association. ``The only thing left is the post-Olympic benefit if, of course, all goes well.″

Tsakiris blamed a lack of international promotion for the 12.5 percent drop in the number of overnight stays from 2002 to the first eight months of 2003, resulting in a loss of up to $34.8 million.

``Expectations of increased business during the pre-Olympic period have not materialized,″ Tsakiris said, adding that Sydney’s occupancy rates were 15-20 percent higher the year before the 2000 Games.

Critics charge that instead of advertising the Olympics, this year’s campaign by the state-run tourism board, promoted alternatives to sea and sun, including food tours, spas, sports, weekend breaks and conferences.

``Everyone knows the Olympic Games. I think it is unfair to say these things,″ Jannis Patellis, head of Greece’s National Tourism Organization, said Tuesday.

``The link between tourism and the Olympics exists,″ Patellis said, adding there is strong cooperation with Olympic sponsors and the 2004 Olympics are advertised when the tourism board participates in exhibitions around the world.

``Also, we should look at the other Olympic cities before the Olympic Games. Usually people deem that there is too much commotion and they avoid these cities. It is not right, but they do not come close to them.″

Tsakiris insisted not enough had been done to promote Athens and the Olympics abroad, and described the $10.4 million earmarked by the tourism board for promotional spending in 2004 as ``insufficient.″

``That’s all Greece has. What can we do?″ Patellis said.

Nearly all of Athens’ prime hotel rooms are already assigned to the IOC, sponsors and dignitaries. Several cruise ships also have been reserved for IOC officials.

Tsakiris said Athens hoteliers are spending $1.04 billion to revamp their hotels with an additional $464 million being spent on the construction of new hotels.

Athens will have an additional 5,000 new rooms next year, he said, easing the hunt for hotel space during the Olympics.

Tourism, Greece’s cash cow, accounted for about 12 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product for 2002.

Last year 14.9 million visitors came to Greece, a 1.6 percent increase from 2001, a government statistics service said last week.

An overall reduction in tourism is expected this year because of the war in Iraq and the global outbreak of SARS. The slump has eased since July.

``I think the reduction in tourism this year is an international phenomenon,″ Patellis said. ``No city managed to have great tourism. With the current crisis, Greece fared well.″

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