Half of Greece’s Tourism Spending on Southern Islands, Athens Lags

(File photo by Eurokinissi/Dimitris Sotiropoulos)

Despite an upswing in interest and growing reputation as a hip place for the young, tourists are still shunning Athens in favor of Greek islands, spending nearly half of what the sector brings in on the Cyclades, Dodecanese and Crete.

The Greek Tourism Confederation (INSETE), citing 2017 data supplied by the Bank of Greece, said those regions brought in 6.91 billion euros ($8.01 billion,) including 3.26 billion ($3.81 billion) on the popular Crete along.

That combined for 48.6 percent of the total tourism spending in a record year that was on course to be broken this year although there are concerns the deadly July 23 wildfire and reports of government negligence in seaside towns might frighten people away.

Athens, the country’s Capital, brought in only 2 billion euros ($2.33 billion,) far less than even Crete although the city is rapidly gaining favor and upgrades to the port of Piraeus by the operators, the Chinese company Cosco, is aimed at bringing more luxury cruise ships.

The area with the least interest was Western Macedonia, bringing in only 45 million euros ($52.53 million,) from visitors, just 0.3 percent of the country’s total, although the neighboring Central Macedonia had the highest numbers due to its bordering on Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which reached a deal with Greece to be renamed North Macedonia.

The area also was popular because it’s close to the second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki and the Halkidiki region, renowned for some of the best beaches in the country and world.

INSETE said Central Macedonia accounted for 13 percent of total receipts last year, 19.4 percent of all overnight stays and 23.4 percent of visitors, Kathimerini reported.

The next most popular area was the Southern Aegean, which accounted for 19 percent of all visits last year.

Each tourist visiting Greece in 2017 stayed for an average of 6.8 nights and spent 458 euros ($534.60,) or 68 euros ($79.37) per overnight stay. The average duration of stay grew by 0.8 percent from 2016, and average expenditure was up 1.9 percent, given that average spending per night increased 1.1 percent despite a new overnight tax imposed by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition which promised to cut taxes but raised them.

The biggest rises in overnight stays and expenditure by foreign tourists were to be found in the Peloponnese, the Southern Aegean and Attica in 2017, with luxury resort Costa Navarino gaining big draws for the Peloponnese.