ATHENS – Nothing: deadly wildfires, transportation strikes, not even muggings and the death of a Portuguese tourist in an attack has kept foreign visitors from flocking to Greece, another bumper year that has lifted the country toward recovery from a crushing eight-year-long economic and austerity crisis.
Figures from the German major travel agency TUI, which delivers huge bookings for Greece, and Fraport Greece, the international consortium running now-privatized regional airports, showed there’s no stopping the rush.
TUI said it booked vacations for Germans of some 2.8 billion euros ($3.21 billion) so far this year with the summer end looming, but tourists still expected to come into the autumn through October, a 10 percent jump over 2017 for the agency, said the business newspaper Naftermporiki.
Fraport Greece, the subsidiary of Frankfurt-based Fraport AG, said passenger traffic through the 14 regional airports it manages around Greece increased by 7.2 percent in July 2018, reaching 5.4 million people.
Greece’s Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies said travel by Greeks to domestic and overseas destinations was up 10 percent while trips abroad by Greeks jumped 20 percent.
Tourism officials expect the overall number this year will break 32 million, three times the country’s population, with Athens also picking up numbers due to a new vibe as having hip neighborhoods for the young, and with more cruise ship arrivals.
The figures are backed by the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), which affirmed that Greek tourism was riding on a wave of keen interest as demonstrated by the increase in the number of arrivals to the country, stronger revenue, and growing investor interest in the sector.
Local tourism officials said the most popular islands are booming almost beyond the ability to handle the numbers, especially on Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Paros, Corfu, Zakynthos and Santorini which were fully booked while even less popular destinations were 85-95 percent full.
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.
Earlier 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.
It wasn’t clear yet though how much per visitor the tourists were spending this year.