Visitors from Six Countries Bring Half of Greece’s Tourism Bounty

FILE - In this Monday, July 23, 2018 file photo, tourists take photographs as the ancient Acropolis hill is seen in the background in Athens. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)

Reliant on tourism as the country’s biggest revenue engine, Greece is especially dependent on visitors from only six countries – Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy and Russia  – who account for the bulk of spending and benefits.

Visitors from those countries, with Russia also included, amount to 41.5 percent  of arrivals, 49.7 percent of overnight stays and 52.2 percent of travel spending, according to a study by INSETE, the Greek Tourism Confederation’s (SETE) research NGO, which focused on 2018.

According to the study, the highest expenditure per overnight stay was from Americans, at 89 euros ($98.82,) while Germans spend the most per visit, at 614 euros ($681.78) because they stay on average some 8.8 nights more, without it being said it may be due to its proximity.

Tourism is the largest sector in Greece, where Greece has unquestionable – and to some extent untapped – comparative advantages,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on a recent visit to the Tourism Ministry, several weeks after winning July 7 snap elections and ousting the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA.

“The country needs a 10-year plan for tourism in the future, which, as Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis has said, will focus on competitiveness, innovation and sustainability. Today there can be no tourist product in Greece that does not give priority to environmental protection,” Mitsotakis stressed.

That came after reports showed that five consecutive record tourism years could be ending, putting a crimp in the new New Democracy government’s plans to accelerate a slow economic recovery after already putting into play measures to cut taxes.

Tourism traffic this summer in Greece is slightly slower than last year, according to surveys, air arrival data and hoteliers, said Kathimerini earlier in July.

The biggest hits were on Crete, as air arrivals dropped 7.2 percent in Iraklio in May and 5.6 percent in Hania. All other Fraport Greece-managed regional airports posted a decline averaging at 1.5 percent compared to a year earlier.

The decline in May was carried over into June, the beginning of the peak summer season with the first days of the month halving gains recorded in the first six months of 2019.  The hotel sector saw low occupancy despite cutting prices, except for popular islands like Mykonos where anything goes and the rich drop 1000 euros ($1126) for a bottle of champagne.

Tourism brings in as much as 20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product of 180.39 billion euros ($200.3) billion, or some 21.6 billion euros ($23.98 billion) and the sector is the third-largest employer, accounting for about 800,000 workers directly or indirectly, a figure that could hit one million by 2021, said the Greek Tourism Federation (SETE) in a previous report.

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