Travel operator wants Germany to subsidize Greece tourism | News | DW | 06.03.2012
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Travel operator wants Germany to subsidize Greece tourism

A leading German travel operator has called on the government to invest in tourism in Greece. Germans, who usually travel in droves to the country, have been largely staying away.

The head of one of Germany's biggest tourist operators on Tuesday called on Berlin to subsidize the tourism sector in Greece to help the country out of its financial and economic crisis.

Willi Verheuven said the government should create incentives for investment in the construction of new hotels and other installations or the renovation of existing facilities. He also called on both Germany and the European Union to help fund a publicity campaign aimed at restoring Greece's tattered image as a holiday destination.

"Those who talk down a tourist destination over a period of years also need to help to rebuild the brand. Now is the chance to do so, because consumers are now booking their vacations," he said on Tuesday, ahead of the start of the ITB travel fair in Berlin.

Verheuven also stressed the role that the tourism industry could play in the recovery of Greece from the financial brink.

"Investment in the Greek tourism sector would create jobs, also in construction, agriculture and the service sector, and could stabilize the entire land and return it to growth," he said.

Statistics seem to support Verhuven's argument, with an estimated 800,000 of Greece's five million workers employed directly by the tourism sector, which makes up about 18 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

Peter Fankhauser, the head of another major tourist operator, Thomsas Cook Germany, noted that the sovereign debt crisis had caused a nation of travelers to largely shun Greece in recent months.

"Last year, Greece profited from the situation in North Africa. This year, however, events in Athens have affected the country's own image," Fankhauser said.

Egypt, another country that a growing number of German tourists have been staying away from over the past year, is the partner nation at this year's ITB travel fair, which opens to the public on Wednesday. German Economy Minister Phillip Rösler was to attend the opening ceremony later on Tuesday.

pfd/acb (dpa, dapd)