NEW YORK -- Although confident the return of the summer Olympic
Games to Athens will prove to be a surefire arrivals booster come
2004, Greek tourism officials and their supplier partners are
taking herculean measures to spur bookings a bit sooner.
"We have a great marketing advantage in the Olympics returning
to their birthplace," said George Tambakis, North American director
for the Greek National Tourist Organization (GNTO) in New York,
estimating that 500,000 U.S. travelers are expected to visit Greece
However, the games are more than two years away, transatlantic
travel remains depressed and Greece -- a popular cruise destination
-- somewhat has suffered as ships have been shifted away from the
So the GNTO and 13 members of the Hoboken, N.J.-based American
Hellenic Tour Operators Association (AHTOA) are collaborating on
cooperative advertising campaigns, a series of travel agent
seminars and a specialist program.
According to Tambakis, the seminars will be held in nine U.S.
cities -- on both coasts and in Florida -- beginning this
Meanwhile, ads should begin appearing in the fall, pending
approval; no debut date has been set for the specialist
In addition, AHTOA members are forking over above-standard
For example, Ulysses Tours in New York is paying 15% on group
bookings, 12% on land and individual arrangements, and 10% on
Olympia Tours of Aventura, Fla., pays 11%, while Cloud Tours,
also in New York, gives agents 10% to 15% on its plans, all of
which include air.
Luxury yacht charter operator Valef Yachts of Ambler, Pa., upped
its pay to 15%, and Apollo Tours, Glenview, Ill., pays from 12% to
15% on land-only and air-land FIT packages.
Given the move to zero pay by U.S. carriers, agents are now
"better off selling inclusive packages in order to make money on
the air," said Cloud Tours president Cally Pantelidis, also head of
Many operators book travel on Greek national carrier Olympic
Airways, which continues to pay 10% with no cap on flights to
Athens. It also offers a $309 roundtrip agent ticket, along with
$100 companion fares.
According to Pantelidis, clients should visit Greece "before the
Olympics crowds arrive starting in 2003."
The following are some sample AHTOA-member packages. Rates are
per person, double.
• Cloud Tours' eight-night Santorini Escapade comprises
sightseeing in Athens, a three-night cruise to the Aegean islands
and Turkey, and three nights on the island of Santorini. Prices
start from $1,359, including all cruise meals and daily hotel
breakfasts. For details, call (800) 223-7880 or e-mail [email protected].
• Olympia Tours' Aegean Classic, a sort of Greek sampler, is
priced from $1,146. It includes two nights each in Athens, Mykonos
and Santorini, and a cruise to Rhodes and Amorgos, along with
Bodrum, Turkey. Daily buffet breakfast, all meals aboard ship, and
sightseeing in Athens are included. For more information, call
(800) 367-6718 or e-mail [email protected].
• Ulysses Tours' Mermaid package bundles three nights each in
Athens and Mykonos with a four-day voyage to the Aegean islands and
Turkey. Priced from $1,016, the plan includes transfers and
sightseeing in Athens. Departures run through Nov. 6. For details,
call (800) 431-1424 or e-mail [email protected].
• Valef Yachts' flagship luxury yacht Christina O. -- which
accommodates 36 passengers in 17 suites and one master suite --
rents for $85,000 per day, including fuel, food, drinks and a crew
of 36. To book, call (800) 223-3845 or e-mail [email protected].
The other AHTOA members are Amphitron Holidays, Washington;
Crown Peters, Astoria, N.Y.; FreeGate Tourism, Garden City, N.Y.;
Homeric Tours, New York; Mediterranean Destinations, Upper Darby,
Pa.; Neotours, Skokie, Ill.; Tourlite International, New York; and
Zeus Tours & Yacht Cruises, New York.
Call the GNTO at (212) 421-5777, or contact AHTOA at (201)
963-9004 or visit www.ahtoa.com on the Web.