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Travel News

Tourist dip key for Greek economy in 2009 – Finance Minister

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ATHENS – There is a big question mark over the fate of tourism in Greece this year, Finance Minister Yannis Papathanassiou said on Monday, amid concerns the global crisis will keep thousands of foreig

ATHENS – There is a big question mark over the fate of tourism in Greece this year, Finance Minister Yannis Papathanassiou said on Monday, amid concerns the global crisis will keep thousands of foreign holidaymakers at home this summer.

With the first signals showing fewer tourist bookings from key countries, Greece, heavily dependent on tourism for years, fears a major fall in visitors will substantially hurt a sector which employs one in five Greeks.

‘Tourism is a very big question mark. So many things will depend on that, especially because we are talking about the whole economy,’ Papathanassiou told a group of foreign correspondents.

Tourism makes up about 18 percent of Greece’s GDP, but the figure could be much higher because it does not include money visitors spend on several industries in the country.

The head of the Greek statistics service told Reuters in a recent interview that this year’s growth would hinge on tourism.

Papathanassiou said that although some early signs showed bookings may be lower than last year, this did not mean they would not pick up later in the season.

Greece, which had booming GDP growth of about 4 percent for years, saw its economy slow down, hit by the global crisis. The European Union expects economic activity to slow to 0.2 percent this year.