Top government officials yesterday discussed plans to lift restrictions on the construction of new hotels, while cutting through the bureaucratic paper chase involved in setting up large tourist enterprises, sources said.
The reforms are expected to be unveiled at an interministerial meeting on tourism next week, following Premier Costas Simitis's talks yesterday with Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos.
Tsochadzopoulos told journalists the government hoped tourism would soon become «the basic economic factor in our country's economic and social development.»
«Our target is an increase in the number of tourist arrivals to 20 million by 2010,» he said, «and a rise of tourism's contribution to our gross domestic product by at least 3 percentage points by 2010.»
According to National Statistics Service figures released yesterday, some 14.16 million tourists visited Greece last year - a 1.6 percent rise over 2001. Tourism accounts for over 15 percent of GDP.
Sources told Kathimerini that measures to be announced next week include allowing hoteliers to build in parts of Greece currently deemed as saturated with hotel enterprises. This has already happened in Attica, to allow construction of badly needed new hotels to cope with an anticipated influx of visitors for the 2004 Olympics. However, this project proved largely unsuccessful, mainly due to opposition by locals who argued that new hotels would invariably harm the environment and eat up valuable open spaces in the densely built capital.
The government also proposes to drastically reduce the red tape involved in new tourism investments. Currently, potential investors need to gather 16 permits from 11 different state departments.