Even Tax Hikes Can’t Stop Greece’s Record Tourism Run

(Photo by ICONPRESS/Christos Doudoumis, file)

ATHENS – With the peak summer season setting in, Greece is awash in tourists who weren’t scared off by a surge in tax hikes, including extra fees for overnight stays imposed by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Figures showed the country on a course for another record-busting year with 2017 bringing in 10.3 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 168.01 billion euros ($194.6), or 17.3 billion euros ($20.22 billion) even though visitors weren’t spending as much per capita as previous years.

Even Athens, usually a quick hit jumping off spot for people on the way to islands, is overrun with people from around the world, Japanese holding sun umbrellas with cameras around their necks, Chinese going into high-end stores to buy luxury goods, the National Archeological Museum and Acropolis Museum packing them in.

The total direct and indirect effect of tourism could be as much as 27.3 percent of GDP or $46.37 billion, the head of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Yiannis Retsos said, a saving grace during a more than eight-year-long economic crisis that has seen harsh austerity measures imposed in return for 326 billion euros ($381.08 billion) in three international bailouts.

At SETE’s 26th general meeting, Kathimerini reported that Retsos said that tourism has proved tax-resistant after the group had fears that SYRIZA tax hikes would send people scurrying to rival countries such as Turkey or even North Africa and Egypt despite lingering terrorism fears there.

But he said for tourism to keep growing that there has to be political stability, with elections looming in 2019, a revised tax system, a national zoning framework and cracking down on violence with critics saying SYRIZA has condoned anarchist rampages in a bid to restore Leftist credentials after Tsipras surrendered to international lenders and banks.

Aegean Airlines Chairman Eftichios Vassilakis suggested tax breaks to spread the tourism season through the year and for cuts in taxes and social security fees on employers.