ATHENS – Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura, citing 150 new airlinks and 6000 additional flights at least to Greece’s regional airports in 2017, said it would add to what she predicted would be yet another record season.
In an interview with the Sunday edition of Vradyni newspaper,Kountoura also said that these flights will concern, among others, destinations as Kos, Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu, Cephalonia, Zakynthos, Aktio and Thessaloniki adding that the “the new airlinks include a large number of European cities as well as Russia, Israel and Lebanon”.
Kountoura also said that new direct flights from countries from Asia, the Middle East and USA and other international markets will help.
She also said there are burgeoning markets developing for tourists from the Middle East, China and South Korea adding that a 30 percent increase in tourists from India is expected according to the number of visas to be issued.
Pre-reservations from all the foreign markets, traditional and new, increased by 15-70 percent in comparison with 2016 and everything seems to be very encouraging. She said 2017 then “will be, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the best year in the history of Greece’s tourism”.
But record hordes of tourists in 2016 didn’t translate into big revenues for Greece as the visitors spent drastically less than in previous years.
The numbers fell for expenditure per visit from abroad, spending per overnight stay and duration of stay, while travel takings posted a decline of 919 million euros ($980.63 million) the Bank of Greece reported, contradicting government figures the banner year was a financial boon too.
Of the five basic figures the central bank published for last year, only arrivals of non-residents posted an increase – of 7.5 percent to 28.07 million – partly thanks to Greeks who have recently moved abroad. Travel receipts declined 6.5 percent from 2015, amounting to 13.2 billion euros ($14.09 billion,) average spending per trip fell 13 percent to 470.50 euros ($502.05,) average expenditure per overnight stay dropped 9.1 percent to 68.30 euros ($72.88) and the average stay per trip shrank 4.3 percent to 6.9 nights.
The travel surplus (the difference between the money foreigners spend in Greece on tourism and the money Greeks spend during their holidays abroad) fell 7.3 percent, from 12.09 billion ($12.90 billion) in 2015 to 11.2 billion euros ($11.95 billion) last year.
There was also a 4.7 percent decline in the number of visitors to museums and archaeological sites, which according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority came to 14.04 million.
The government is hoping for another record year and that spending will increase to help offset a seven-year-long economic crisis.
The Greek tourism sector contributed 18.6 percent (32.8 billion euros) – about $35 billion – to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016, according to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).