Greece Tourism Boom Giving Athens Bump Too

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, FILE)

ATHENS – Usually seen as a pit stop by tourists on the way to Greek islands, Athens is seeing a surge in visitors during a record run of years of foreigners pouring into the country, leading to a number of new hotels being built, others renovated and short-term rentals such as Airbnb and Homeaway making a stamp too.

Figures show that 16 percent of tourists now spend at least one night in Athens, Kathimerini said, with trendy neighborhoods picking up a buzz internationally, especially among the young interested in coffee shops, clubs and other activities.

So-called city breakers who come exclusively to Athens for a brief or medium-length stay, soared from 220,000 in 2013 to about 1.4 million in 2017, according to figures from Athens International Airport. In 2016 these visitors almost doubled in comparison to 2015, while in just five years they have increased 700 percent, the paper said.

Adding conventional travelers who spent more time in the capital or combined Athens with other destinations, Attica in 2017 received a total of 5.13 million tourists, or 16.6 percent of those visiting the entire country. This resulted in 29.4 million overnight stays and in revenues of 2.08 billion euros last year – all significantly higher than in previous years.

This year’s statistics concerning Attica visitors are set for new highs. According to 2018 data on guests and hotel occupancy up to August presented in the survey “On Guest Satisfaction and Performance of Attica Hotels in 2018” – conducted by GBR Consulting for the Athens-Attica and Argosaronic Hoteliers Association and published last month – there has been an increase in the occupancy rate of 2.2 percentage points compared with the first eight months of 2017, while the average room rate has gone up 8.5 percent, the report added.

The Attica region, according to Bank of Greece figures, ranks third among the country’s top destinations with 5.14 million visitors. The biggest markets are the United States (616,000 tourists), the United Kingdom (421,000) and Cyprus (387,000).

But some caution is being advised with fears that the sudden upsurge could peak and cause a bubble burst and glut of accommodations too, particularly in the short-term rental options that have taken a bite out of hotels.