Bringing Tourists Back to Greece

The massive advertising and promotional campaign that the Greek National Tourist Organization (GNTO) kicked off to counter the effects of last year’s terrorist activities is paying off, according to spokespeople from GNTO and tour operators across the country.

Those interviewed reported that inquiries and bookings have picked up significantly since the campaign’s February 26 launch date. They also reported that they had not received any cancellations or phone calls from booked passengers expressing concern after the recent disturbances in Libya.

However many of the tour operators reported that most American still are are opting for alternative destinations, including the United States, South America and the Soviet Union. And as this issue goes to print, it is suspected that another bomb was responsible for an explosion aboard a TWA flight from Rome to Athens, April 2, bringing the question of security to the fore once again.

According to Stacy Rubis, director of advertising/public relations for GNTO, overall American travel to Greece is down 20 percent from last year. However, the New-YorK-Times recently reported a 50 percent decline, and Ad Age reported a 70 percent decline. For the cruise sector, the decline has been 60 to 70 percent, according to other industry sources.

To counter the decline, GNTO has invested almost $3 million in television and print advertising, and $500,000 on public relations, spreading the word about the attractions of Greece, and the government’s measures to tighten security. GNTO also has been conducting press and travel agent fam trips, and has entered into coop advertising with Olympic Airways and Sun Line Cruises.

To date, the investment is yielding good returns, according to Rubis.

At Sun Line, requests for literature and bookings have picked up in the past month, according to a spokesperson at the line. “I thought the season was going to be a lot worse,” she said.

Even so, Sun Line has shifted its emphasis to other markets, and is relying heavily on bookings from France, Germany, Mexico, South America, South Africa, and Japan.

Terrorism’s effect on tourism in other regions

Britain          5%*
   (30% for cruises)  
Egypt 50%
France 30%
Israel 41%
Italy 30%

Source: NYT, April 2, 1986

Debbie Gregory of Trieana Travel & Tourism has noticed a “definite increase” in interest in the area since the campaign began. However, the group season is lost, she said. “We’re depending on last minute individual bookings for the summer.”

Things look better for the Fall, she said. “We recently received some bookings for September and October, which is a good sign. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that nothing else happens”, she added.

Hellas Tours also has been receiving a lot more reservations than it had been two or three months ago, according to Michael Shirilla, a spokesperson for the company. “Even so, things are not good. People are afraid to travel to that area,” he said.

Despite the setback, GNTO is optimistic about the future, Rubis said. She noted that Athens was recently selected to host the 1987 ASTA convention, and that the agents who are returning from the fam trips are “very excited about promoting tourism to Greece.”

However, many agents have reported that it is difficult for them to promote Greece, despite their enthusiasm, because they have had virtually no requests for Mediterranean travel, and do not expect the situation to improve until next year, according to the NYT.

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