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June 23, 2010

Athens trying to stabilize tourism drop to single digits

The Irish Times carries an interview with Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos

"Athens reckons the outlook for tourism is less gloomy than after anti-austerity riots last month and is shifting to seek visitors from China or Japan who are more interested in Greece's ancient culture than its sunshine.

«I'm not saying it's going to be a good year for Greek tourism but we hope to recover many of the losses,» Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos told Reuters during a promotion of Greek islands, beaches and temples.

Many foreign visitors canceled trips after the deaths of three people, including a pregnant woman, during riots that started in Athens on May 5 following protest marches against government cuts imposed to secure an EU and IMF bailout worth 110 billion euros ($136.2 billion).

At the height of the crisis, Geroulanos said Athens feared the percentage drop in revenues from tourism - which accounts for almost a fifth of Greece's gross domestic product - «could have been in the double digits» in 2010 from 2009.

«Now we hope to keep it in the low single digits,» he said in an interview late on Monday night. «I'm cautious in mentioning numbers, because the situation is still fluid.» He said Athens was hardest hit by cancellations, while some islands were barely affected. In an incentive, Greece would guarantee hotel costs for tourists stranded, for instance by strikes or flights grounded by ash from an Icelandic volcano.

Greece is expecting a slight drop in the number of tourists visiting the country this year but will try to compensate by attracting more people from Asia.

The tourism industry had hoped to benefit from a weaker euro to stabilize revenues after a 10 percent drop in 2009. "

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