ATHENS – Greece’s hopes that tourists would return as COVID-19 pandemic health measures are being eased is already seeing benefits with jumping arrivals of Americans who had largely been kept out since the health crisis began in 2020.
Tourism officials said the pattern shows the numbers could approach the record year of 2019, when 1,178,988 Americans arrived.
That made the United States the seventh-largest market behind Germany, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Romania, and just ahead of Turkey, Serbia and Albania.
Americans are a critical market for Greece in how they spend, ranking third in 2019, with 1.189 billion euros ($1.13 billion) behind only Germany and the United Kingdom but ahead of France and Italy.
The data was a boost given worries that the affect on fuel prices and political upheaval around the world over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would keep people at home for a third straight summer and cut into Greece’s biggest revenue engine.
And 2021 figures, when people started visiting in greater numbers but far below 2019, showed that Americans doublted their average per capital spending to $1500, bolstered by a big Greek-American Diaspora.
And that figure, said Kathimerin in a report on the pending high season, didn’t including air tickets and accomodations, raising its importance even more, especially for hotels, resorts and short-term rental platforms like Airbnb.
The newspaper said Americans, even this early in the spring, are popping up everywhere, from major hotels in the capital to archaeological sites and museums, some reports in the biggest numbers seen yet.
At the end of March, the Greek Tourism Confederation (INSETE) said active air bookings for trips from the US to Greece reached the same level as at at the same point of 2019.
The organization said Greece has seemed to recover a bigger share of its pre-pandemic incoming traffic from the US, in comparison with other Southern European countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal.
A recent survey by Tourix, based on Google data, shows that most searches for tourism destinations in Greece come from the US, followed by the UK, France and Germany the report also added.
Major US airlines have scheduled a record number of direct flights to Greece for this season with a maximum of 22,000 seats per week is expected for flights from the US to Greece this summer.
Greek tourism industry sources said that’s for a number of reasons, including that the country has shaken off its image as economically troubled, a fnancial and auserity crisis from 2010-18 fading, and health restrictions being rapidly eased as the New Democracy government has focused attention on an economic recovery.
And while summer is the top period, driven by people wanting to go to beaches and islands, Greece has been reaching out to make the country a year-round destination, with the numbers showing spring becoming more attractive for cultural tourism.