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Crete’s Cavo Sidero resort project March 15, 2008

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The Council of State did not hear this week the appeal against the construction of a hotel and golf complex on Crete.

Protesters claim that the Cavo Sidero project, to comprise five holiday villages, a string of luxury hotels and three golf courses, would damage the environment and be a heavy drain on water resources. It was not clear when the court will rule on the case.

Cavo Sidero resort’s case to be heard at Greek courts March 12, 2008

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Hundreds of Cretan residents and environmentalists protesting plans for the construction of a huge tourism complex on the island’s unspoilt northwestern coast will have their joint appeal against the project heard by the country’s highest administrative court tomorrow.

Protesters claim that the Cavo Sidero project, that would comprise five holiday villages, a string of luxury hotels and three golf courses, would damage the environment and be a heavy drain on water resources.

Campaigners had lobbied the government to boycott the project by British property development company Minoan Group Plc (formerly Loyalward Limited), writing letters to 11 different Ministries, but authorities have encouraged the 1.2-billion-euro investment.

Residents of Crete, much of which already suffers periods of drought in summer, say the plan would be devastating for the arid island. Even local farming cooperatives have joined the protest, complaining that they already struggle with dwindling water resources.

“The more time goes by, the more people begin to realize what is actually being planned for the area and start doubting the benefits of this initiative,” said Nikos Kyfonidis, President of the Ierapetra Ecological Group. Kyfonidis doubts the validity of an agreement that has allowed Minoan to lease some 2,600 hectares for 80 years, saying that “new evidence throws into doubt the credibility of this controversial contract.”

The cause of local residents and environmentalists has been embraced by several foreign academics. Oliver Rackham, a Cambridge University ecology professor, told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that the project was “grotesquely unsuited to… one of the most arid places in Europe.” “The development is unsustainable because of the huge amounts of water that will be needed,” Rackham said.

Minoan Group’s Chairman Christopher Egleton insists that the resort will be built on only 1 percent of the site, will be “fully sustainable” and will benefit the local community in the long term.

Greece still one of Europe’s foremost tourist destinations March 7, 2008

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Greece enters the new tourism season as one of the most popular destinations in the world’s biggest markets, Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos told a press conference here yesterday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a major tourism exhibition which is taking place in Germany, Spiliotopoulos said Greece is the second most popular destination among 80 according to data compiled by the International Federation of Tour Operators. In the German market alone, a survey by tour operator TUI shows Greece to be the most attractive country worldwide, while another joint survey by the European Cruise Council, Euroyards and Medcruise & Europe ranked the country third in the list of the most popular cruise destinations in Europe, behind Italy and Spain.

The course of Greek tourism, said the Minister, is linked to culture and sports, as well as to environmental awareness. There is also emphasis on developing so-called green tourism, with pilot actions at tourism destinations across the country in association with local authorities.

Efforts in this context also include the formulation of a pioneering program of tourism development aimed at protecting the environment, through the creation of eco-camping grounds and eco-marinas, and a series of innovative actions such as special routes, kiosks and observation towers.

Spiliotopoulos said camping sites at Skotina, Asprovalta, Paliouri and Phanari in Northern Greece will be upgraded with more environmentally friendly facilities, while an ecological marina will also be created at Paliouri in Halkidiki.

The upgrading of regional airports continues meanwhile, in cooperation with the Transport Ministry and the assistance of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE). “In a few years’ time,” Spiliotopoulos said, “we will have an ultramodern airport at Kastelli in Crete.” Most international airports in the country are being upgraded, while the airports of Araxos, Nea Anchialos and Kalamata are now also receiving international flights for the April-October period each year.

The Ministry has funds available from the European Union totaling 564 million, which will be used to upgrade the quality of the country’s tourism product.

Greek MIG buys Croatian tourism group March 7, 2008

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Greek buyout firm Marfin Investment Group said it is taking a controlling stake in Croatian tourism group Sunce as part of its expansion plans.

MIG will pay 155 million euros ($237 million) for a 75 percent stake in Sunce, which operates 11 hotels along the Adriatic coast, has a majority stake in a local airport and owns 860,000 square meters of development land. “The Sunce acquisition is further testament to MIG’s regional reach and ability to source significantly value-accretive transactions for its shareholders,” MIG Executive Vice Chairman Andreas Vgenopoulos said in a statement.

Greek tourism industry is globaly competitive March 5, 2008

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Athens International Airport helped Greece score points in the global tourism competitiveness report.

Greece’s tourism industry has become slightly more competitive on a global scale, despite a slide in the quality of healthcare and safety levels offered by the country, according to a report made public yesterday. Tourism is one of Greece’s most crucial industries, accounting for about a fifth of annual economic growth and almost 20 percent of jobs.

A Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, prepared by non-profit group World Economic Forum (WEF), showed Greece had climbed two places to position No 22 from 2007, out of a total of 130 countries. Switzerland took position No 1, followed by Austria and Germany.

Greece scored well in points given for airport infrastructure and human resources and was given top marks for the priority given to the industry, according to WEF. On the downside, the country slipped from position No 3 to 16th place regarding health and hygiene services. A lower score was also given regarding safety and security, placing Greece in 31st position, versus No 18 last year.

Commenting on the report, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) said tourism is not solely reliant on factors strictly relating to the industry. “The competitiveness of tourism is the result of total government action for each country and not exclusively on the Tourism Ministry,” SETE said.

The conservative government set up a separate Tourism Ministry after being elected in March 2004, in a move seen as helping to give the sector a higher position in state policy.

The WEF report also pointed out the growing importance of environmentally friendly policies in tourism.

Greece is set to “do very well” this summer March 5, 2008

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Greece looks set to become one of the top tourist destinations for 2008.

05-03-08_greece.jpg  According to online tour operator lastminute.com, the company is already starting to get bookings for the summer period and reservations are likely to increase in the six weeks leading up to the main summer departure dates.

John Bevan, Managing Director of lastminute.com UK, noted that Greece in particular is looking likely to perform well this summer. “We are expecting Greece to do very well this summer as prices are particularly competitive” he commented.

The Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises has predicted that arrivals in the country will reach 19.4 million by the year 2010.

New ideas to boost Greek agritourism February 25, 2008

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Many agritourism facilities already offer horse riding as part of their packages to patrons. New ventures are planned to receive European Union investment subsidies.

A new category of accommodation is currently being prepared and is planned to be added to Greece’s tourism product under the «xenonas» (guest house) label. The newly designated facilities will offer full board services, and efforts will be made to differentiate it entirely from the customary «rooms to let» type of tourism business.

In addition, as part of efforts to upgrade the Greek tourism sector, plans are being made for the establishment of another new institution, the «agroktima» (farm), offering exactly what its title describes, a farm that can be visited by tourists.

The two measures are part of efforts to create the appropriate legislative framework for tourism in the countryside, envisaged to effectively boost entrepreneurship in the specific subsector, but also in view of preparing the National Strategic Reference Framework of investment subsidies under the European Union’s Fourth Community Support Framework.

Already, an increasing number of entrepreneurs are active in this specific area and are demanding solutions to a number of legislation snags currently obstructing their activities in terms of legal and organizational matters.

Some preliminary work on the issue has already been done by a special working team, set up for that purpose, comprising representatives from agritourism businesses, farmers, development firms, trade associations, the Greek National Tourism Organization and the Ministry of Tourism.

A relevant Ministerial decision, according to officials, should be amended to allow the smooth and unhindered operation of countryside tourism. Objectives include the incorporation of guest house and farm specifications into the revised joint Ministerial decision as a financing criterion for inclusion in the projects to be subsidized. The working team is also looking into legal and tax obstacles faced by businessmen or farmers planning to set up businesses in the respective areas.

Such issues include the possibility of the on-site use and sale of agricultural products, processed or not, produced by the farm owner, the proximity of guest houses with any animal shelters, as well as insurance aspects and registration of certain new types of jobs arising from such a new activity.