Tourists Love Greece, Regardless

FOREIGN tourists remain quite satisfied with what they get from Greece as their holiday destination, in spite of high prices and the worldwide economic recession, according to a survey of visitors' preferences aired on Flash 96 Radio on July 9.

Eight out of 10 visitors polled said they plan to return to the country for a future vacation, while nine out of 10 would recommend it to friends who have never been to Greece.

Americans, Australians and Germans seem to be the most satisfied, whereas Scandinavians and the French were less so.

"The fact that so many tourists wish to return to Greece after their first visit, and six out of 10 surveyed have already been to Greece before, shows what a strong brand name our country has in the world tourist market," Tourist Development Minister Kostas Markopoulos said on the radio.

Greek food and entertainment - especially on the islands - received top marks from most respondents, whereas the high prices of the domestic market was the most unpleasant aspect of their stay. The survey comes on the heels of government-released statistics, and largely confirms encouraging signs of resilience by the Greek tourism sector in the face of the financial crisis.

The expected drop in tourist arrivals and revenue in the first half of the year was not as bad as many feared. According to the survey, the sector's strength appears to be sustained by visitors' satisfaction with the unique qualities and diversity of their holiday experience in the country. They are therefore inclined to visit Greece for shorter periods and spend less during that time, rather than switch to a cheaper travel destination altogether.

The study was conducted at the end of June by Ammon Ovis Business Development Consultants. Ammon Ovis market analyst Kostas Drosatos said the survey was carried out at the departure lounge of the Athens International Airport, with a standard questionnaire given to a sample of 332 tourists from five continents.

Age differences

The average time spent in Greece was 12 days, with longer stays registered by those who divided their time between Athens and a Greek island (16 days).

Those who confined their visit exclusively to Athens spent on average four fewer days than those who preferred to limit their visit to the islands (seven days as opposed to 11 days, respectively). Age groups and nationality of the visitors seem to play a significant role in determining the length of stay. Those at the opposite ends of the age scale were inclined to spend the longest periods away from home.

The average stay for tourists aged 17 to 25 years, and those aged 56 or older, is 15 days, compared to 11 days for the three intermediate age categories.

Germans stayed longest in the country (14 days on average), followed by Australians with 13 days. By contrast, Americans spent only eight to nine days.

A dissenting view

LIKE MOST tourist surveys before it, the Ammon Ovis study "reinforces old cliches and platitudes about the popularity of Greece as a tourist destination without exploring the potential of its real competitive advantages," Athens-based travel agent Michalis Tziotis told the Athens News.

"One wonders how much thin air can be blown into the rubric of entertainment, but there's obviously no room in it for the concept of culture," he said.

He added that culture is the key ingredient in any serious attempt to attract a fresh wave of high-income tourists to Greece, now that the country has forever lost the advantage of comparatively low prices.

"Why do you think the Turks are suddenly peddling all the Ionian monuments of the Greek cultural heritage in Asia Minor as their own?" he asked. Turkey knows that tourists with expensive tastes and the disposable income to go with it are the ones who also possess a high-level of education and varied cultural interests.

"Instead of drowning the cultural legacy of Hellenism into a catch-all notion of entertainment, we should be doing more for the preservation and promotion of our eternal treasures at home and abroad," Tziotis said.

(Posting date 24 July 2009)

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