The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is still cutting deep into Greece's tourism sector – as now has been a heatwave and summer of hellish fires across the country – but the industry is showing such resilience that it's coming back.
Officials hoped that the 2021 take in arrivals and revenues would be as much as half a record 2019 when 33 million people came, the run broken in 2020 when the pandemic struck and lockdowns were imposed.
Despite repeated shots, the economy is rebounding, said research from the National Bank of Greece’s Economic Analysis Department, particularly because of a big uptake in international air travel almost shut down in 2020. “If we suppose the health data follow a pattern similar to that of last year, (tourism revenue) in 2021 will recover to 50 percent of the 2019 level,” the report concluded, said Kathimerini.
Tourism had employed almost a million people and brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 170.28 billion euros ($200.3 billion) that is the biggest money maker.
The level of international arrivals by air in June was about a third of the same month in 2019 but a big jump over 2020 when it was down 97 percent and people terrified of flying or traveling.
July arrivals were about 67percent of the 2019 level, up from 29 percent in July 2020, the month a critical time for the numbers of foreign visitors, although this year has been hampered by restrictions limiting those from a number of countries.
Reservations and other criteria considered less reliable show that Greece should see the highest recovery among all Mediterranean destinations compared to 2020, helped by scores of thousands of Americans and Greek-Americans returning.
As Greece hopes to lures tourists beyond the summer and diversify its attractions year-round, the research's authors said the the state and sector professionals haven't taken full advantage of the “natural beauty, warm hospitality and cultural heritage.”
“The country is in a very advantageous position to profit from the coming changes” in the global tourism industry, their report said, as Greece was among the top destinations this year for people wanting to escape.
Despite its importance, tourism hasn't been a major priority of successive Greek governments who had often relied on word-of-mouth and were reluctant to spend on ad campaigns.
The post-pandemic recovery is being aided by 32 billion euros ($37.64 billion) in European Union funds but the paper said that only 600 million euros ($705.77 million) will be used for tourism, no word where the rest of the money is going.