Greek tourism industry sees rebound despite clashes

Thu Jun 30, 2011 11:45am EDT
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By Ingrid Melander

ATHENS (Reuters) - Clashes between hooded youths and police in Athens this week have dented Greece's image but tourism officials say this should not stop the hard-hit sector rebounding this year.

Tourism revenues sank by a fifth from 2008 to 2010, hit first by the global downturn and then by anti-austerity riots in May last year in which three bank employees were killed.

Greece's debt crisis this year has seen social unrest and this week street battles, tear gas and fires during Athens anti-austerity protests, but officials say they still expect a 10 percent increase in tourist arrivals this summer.

This would be crucial for the crisis-hit country where tourism accounts for one in five jobs and 16 percent of GDP.

Officials are hoping the bad publicity will be short-lived.

"Of course we are worried but if there is nothing more, and today looks calm, I don't think this will have a significant impact," said George Drakopoulos, general manager of Greece's main tourism industry association SETE, a day after the clashes.

"It hurts our image abroad, but considering the flow of bookings since the beginning of the year, this should have an impact but a rather minimal one."

The effect is likely to be felt harder in central Athens, where most protest rallies have taken place near parliament, rather than on the sun-drenched islands.   Continued...

<p>Tourists make their way in front of anchored ships during a 48-hour labour strike at Piraeus port near Athens June 28, 2011. REUTERS/Panagiotis Tzamaros</p>