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Yachts popular but berths few

State-run marinas in Attica and Thessaloniki will be reorganised and upgraded to the high standards seen elsewhere in Europe, Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis

State-run marinas in Attica and Thessaloniki will be reorganised and upgraded to the high standards seen elsewhere in Europe, Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis has announced.

The government is throwing the spotlight on marine tourism – among other areas – as part of a 150-billion drachma package of immediate priorities for 2000-2001 drawn up by the firm Greek Tourist Properties (ETA), which operates under the Hellenic Tourism Organisation (EOT).

In Athens, a facelift is planned for Marina Zea at Piraeus as well as improvements in access to the facility. At the Vouliagmeni marina, better services will be made available to vessel owners in cooperation with existing accommodation units in the area. The docks at Alimos and Flisvos will be further developed and dry dock services and maintenance are to be provided. A total of 15 billion drachmas will be invested in upgrading marinas.

Athens daily `Ta Nea` reported that EOT-operated marinas in Attica -where demand is highest – are filled to the brim and, as an increasingly affluent section of the population is purchasing recreational vessels, the waiting lists for a berth are extremely long. The list at Vouliagmeni marina apparently dates back to 1989 and no places have been freed up since.

Though formally boat owners are told there are no berths available, one can reportedly secure one of a handful of parking spots for their gleaming, newly-acquired toys if they have the right connections as well as a few thousand or million drachmas to offer as an incentive.

EOT states that all of its marinas are fully occupied and that it cannot meet the rapidly growing demand resulting from the jump in yacht sales over recent years.

ETA`s focus on modernising and developing the existing docking facilities appears to be the government`s answer to criticism of the state of Greek marinas, mostly concerning lack of or entirely insufficient infrastructure and security. Recreational vessel owners complain that instances of burglary have increased markedly while many do not feel safe at the marinas, particularly in the evening hours.

`Ta Nea` gave a rundown of the costs involved in the event that a berth is found. For a 10-metre vessel, docking for a recreational vessel costs:

159,500 drachmas (plus VAT) during the summer period of April-September and 119,625 drachmas in winter at Vouliagmeni, which has 113 berths.

116,000 drachmas and 87,000 drachmas, respectively, at Alimos, which has 900 berths but currently hosts 1,400 vessels.

60,500 drachmas and 45,370 drachmas at Flisvos, which has 220 berths.

71,473 drachmas and 53,560 drachmas at Marina Zea, which has 512 berths but hosts 680 vessels.

In neighbouring Turkey, the situation seems more favourable, not so much in terms of berthing costs but in services offered, `Ta Nea` pointed out.

It stated that the cost of renting a berth at the marina in Marmara is 73,800 drachmas per month for a 10-metre yacht. However, Turkish marinas are reportedly very well-organised, guarded on a 24-hour basis and have dockside supermarkets.

The first phase of development involves works worth 150 billion drachmas and it is expected to create 6,500 jobs, Christodoulakis stated, referring to the entire ETA programme and reflecting the state`s efforts to reduce the ranks of the jobless.

Among ETA`s other investment initiatives are plans for a reorganisation and modernisation of recreational facilities, such as restaurants, organised beaches and clubs, which it operates in coastal areas. Christodoulakis said a unified effort would be undertaken to upgrade the Attica coastal zone, underlining its significance in view of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The ministry admits that the services currently offered are of inferior quality and profits are low while violations of contractual obligations are common. It hopes to make better use of the properties, expand the range of services and boost their economic performance.

Thematic tourism will be promoted via a 35-billion drachma park in Anavyssos where passive forms of tourism will be introduced as well as a 20-billion drachma technopolis specialising in marine technology which is likely to include an aquarium featuring species native to the Mediterranean and a water activity park. The Greek Marine Research Centre is expected to have involvement in the technopolis.

ETA, which holds the exclusive right to develop mineral springs in Greece, intends to further the notion of spa tourism – a government priority – with the establishment of a new hydrotherapy park and mineral-based cosmetics industry in Fthiotida, central Greece. At the same time, it will modernise the rundown spa at Edipsos, Evia and develop facilities at Kaiafa and Nigrita, all with the assistance of experts in the field.

Regional development is also targeted through new products such as sports tourism, the promotion of local cuisine, ecotourism and agrotourism – starting with Crete, Rhodes, Halkidiki and oft-neglected Thrace. Research is being undertaken into proposals for the amelioration of EOT facilities such as campsites in northern Greece in order to attract visitors from eastern Europe.

As the employer of 2,000 staff, ETA has indicated it will introduce a system of productivity-based bonuses and hire employees able to meet exacting requirements.

Funding for ETA`s ambitious plans will be drawn from its own capital – with a bourse listing scheduled for 2001 – along with bank and institutional investors while the private sector will be called upon to lend a financial hand through investment incentives.

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