ATHENS Greece's tourism revenues are likely to fall 7-9 percent this year, making it even harder for the debt-choked country to pull itself out of a crisis that has rocked markets worldwide, a senior industry official said.
Tourism accounts for nearly a fifth of Greece's output and is a main driver of its 240 billion euro economy. How it fares is crucial for the recession-hit economy and its capacity to exit its debt crisis.
"We'll see a big drop in revenues because (holiday) prices are down... At the moment we expect a 7 to 9 percent drop (in revenues)," said Andreas Andreadis, head of the Hellenic Hotel Federation and Vice President of Greece's Tourism Enterprises.
Last year was already bad for the sector, with revenues down about 10 percent. Tourism receipts fell to 10.4 billion euros ($13.21 billion), pushed lower by the global financial crisis, a strong euro and competition from cheaper nearby destinations.
The industry had hoped things would slightly improve thanks to a weaker euro and signs of economic recovery in key markets such as Germany and Britain.
But bookings have been hurt by worries over repeated strikes against austerity measures and the death of three people in a bank burnt during a protest last week.
"People are afraid about violence and worried about strikes," Andreadis told Reuters in the interview, adding that bookings had slowed after the deadly protest.
He expected bookings to pick up but said that revenues will be hurt as the industry will have to cut prices further to attract late demand.
How tourism eventually fares this year will depend a lot on whether upcoming protests are peaceful and whether there are any more 24-hour flight strikes, he said.
Air traffic controllers said on Friday they would not take part in a general strike on May 20, to avoid hurting tourism and Greece's economy further.
"We are trying to reassure people," Andreadis said.
(Editing by Ian Jones)