Lenders say Greece makes reform progress


BRUSSELS |
Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:14am EDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Greece is doing well with reforms required to receive the next tranche of emergency loans but is not there yet, international lenders said on Thursday.

Representatives of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank were commenting after a visit to Athens. They said they would return to Greece in early April to continue their review.

“Significant progress has been made but a few issues remain outstanding,” the statement said.

“As additional technical work will be necessary to settle these issues, the mission will take a short break to allow this work to be completed.”

Greece is getting its first review after lenders agreed to unlock almost 50 billion euros in aid in December, staving off bankruptcy and keeping it in the euro. In return, Athens passed a new round of austerity measures to prop up its finances.

At the end of the troika’s 10-day visit, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said he was confident that Athens would get a 2.8 billion euro aid tranche it is waiting on this month, despite the interruption in talks.

Kept afloat solely by foreign aid, Greece has received more than 200 billion euros in loans since May 2010 but questions remain about whether it can continue implementing the ambitious reform program in the face of public anger against the measures.

In addition to unpopular wage cuts and tax rises it has already agreed, Athens also needs to sack “a large part” of 27,000 civil servants it must earmark for possible dismissal.

To secure the March tranche, Athens needs to present a detailed staffing plan spelling out which ministries the workers will come from and how many of those will be laid off.

A deeply sensitive issue in a country where six years of recession have sent unemployment to the highest level in generations, Athens is keen to avoid public sector layoffs but has denied speculation that cutting its bloated public sector were a sticking point in talks with the troika.

Another contentious issue concerns terms and deadlines for a 50-billion-euro recapitalization of banks, which risk being nationalized if they fail to complete the process in time and seek a softening of terms.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski. Writing by Karolina Tagaris. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)


Good news at last! Greece tourism bouncing back thanks to Brit holidaymakers

  • Bookings from Britain, Germany and the Netherlands were up 10 percent
  • Country is battling recession and a debt crisis

By
Jill Reilly

10:10 EST, 8 March 2013


|

10:10 EST, 8 March 2013

Finally there is some good news for Greece – tourism is bouncing back this year in an otherwise flat European market.

The desire for a beach holiday closer to home for cost-conscious consumers in Europe is helping to revive tourism demand in the country, battling recession and a debt crisis.

Doerte Nordbeck from market research group GfK showed in a presentation at the ITB travel fair this week that bookings to Greece from Britain, Germany and the Netherlands for this summer were up 10 percent.

Good news at last: Sunbathers and Holidaymakers on a beach in Stoupa, Greece. Tourism is bouncing back this year in an otherwise flat European market

Good news at last: Sunbathers and Holidaymakers on a beach in Stoupa, Greece. Tourism is bouncing back this year in an otherwise flat European market

Tourism income for Greece, its chief money spinner, fell by 4.6 percent to 9.89 billion euros from January-November in 2012 according to the country’s central bank.

Arrivals from Germany, Greece’s biggest tourism market, dropped by almost a fifth, partly on fears about a backlash on German tourists caused by Berlin’s tough austerity demands on Athens.

Alltours, Germany’s No. 4 tour operator, said bookings for holidays in Greece were up 30 percent on the year by March 5, boding well for the country where tourism accounts for around one fifth of output and one in five jobs.

‘The tourism industry in Greece has overcome the crisis of the last two years and is now back on top form,’ said Willi Verhuven, chief executive of German tour operator Alltours.

Troubled: A demonstrator clashes with riot police during a 24-hour strike in Athens in October, 2012. The tourism figures are a massive boost to the country which is currently battling recession and a debt crisis

Troubled: A demonstrator clashes with riot police during a 24-hour strike in Athens in October, 2012. The tourism figures are a massive boost to the country which is currently battling recession and a debt crisis

Verhuven said the company was in particular seeing a surge in bookings from repeat customers who had ditched Greece in favour of other resorts.

Europe’s largest tour operator TUI Travel is also seeing a comeback for Greece, with bookings at the group’s German unit up 4 percent. Bookings from the UK are performing strongly, a spokesman said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who opened the ITB fair this year, called on trade fair visitors to take holidays in ailing euro zone states like Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy to help to create jobs.

Call: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who opened the ITB fair this year, called on trade fair visitors to take holidays in ailing euro zone

Call: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who opened the ITB fair this year, called on trade fair visitors to take holidays in ailing euro zone

‘I also wish that European countries which are famous for tourism get good custom – I name Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy – all countries in which growth is really necessary at the moment and where we have to make an effort to finally get people back into work,’ she said.

Globally, the tourism industry – worth an estimated $1.15 trillion last year – is expected to grow by between 3 and 4 percent in 2013, driven by up to 6 percent higher visitor numbers in emerging markets, according to latest estimates from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

It sees growth in Europe, the world’s No. 1 tourist destination, slowing to 2 percent or holding steady at 3 percent as the region’s debt and financial crisis rumbles on.

But Germany’s federal tourist association BTW forecasts growth of just 1 to 2 percent this year due to the uncertain economic environment.

‘If the weak economy begins to seriously affect the employment market and domestic demand then this will also impact on the tourism industry,’ group president Michael Frenzel said.

Germany’s national tourist board also sounded a note of caution. ‘The European financial and debt crisis is still a long way from being overcome yet,’ said Klaus Laepple, president of the tourist board.

Emerging markets like China and Russia will continue to be the main driver of growth for international tourism, Rolf Freitag, head of tourism consultancy IPK, said.

Asia Pacific is seen recording the biggest increase in visitor numbers this year, with growth of between 5 and 6 percent, followed by Africa, where arrivals are expected to increase by between 4 and 6 percent, UNWTO said.

Last year, emerging market countries attracted 4.1 percent more tourists while their mature counterparts catered for 3.6 percent more travellers, according to UNTWO data.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

Greece is such a special and beautiful country and the islands can be magical. I love that the Greeks share their culture with us and are so hospitable. Go to the unspoilt places where you will find the real Greece.

chrissy
,

London,
08/3/2013 23:34

Let them have their drachma Currency back and get rid of the Euro …which will never work..!! They will soon get back on their feet… Euro, the biggest failure ever!!

greenjacket
,

london,
08/3/2013 23:33

We will be back again to our favourite village in Crete again this year. Love it so much we keep returning.

Mamagizmodude
,

Newcastle Upon Tyne,
08/3/2013 23:30

Thats why they love it when u invest and then take it from u!

shann
,

barcelona,
08/3/2013 23:20

Unfortunately TUI and the other large tour operators own many of the hotels that are dishing out the all inclusive holidays, so much of that money will fly straight out of the country. Don’t book all inclusive – use a few of the local tavernas. Better food and you will see more of the real Greece.

exUKresident
,

Crete, Greece,
08/3/2013 21:41

I work for one of the biggest hotel chains in Greece and I have to say that the majority of our holidaymakers are Russian. Then British and German. We love and welcome them all though

Anna
,

Athens,
08/3/2013 21:39

Shame they allowed a chosen leader from Brussels to lead them. Should have fought for freedom

AcrossthePond
,

ex pat, United States,
08/3/2013 21:15

Went last year and had a great time. People were very welcoming. Lovely country and people. Spent some time in Athens too and loved the city. Prices were very reasonable. Plan on going to Crete this Summer. You can’t beat Greece really. Nothing compares for beaches, history, people and climate.

James S
,

London, United Kingdom,
08/3/2013 20:39

If the Greeks really want a tourism bonanza, QUIT THE EU.

Arturo
,

of England, United Kingdom,
08/3/2013 20:39

Went last year and had a fantastic time. People were very welcoming. Lovely country and people. Spent some time in Athens too and was surprised how tranquil it was. Prices were very reasonable too. Will be going back this year.

James S
,

London, United Kingdom,
08/3/2013 20:29

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