ATHENS – Despite opening early to tourists in July, Greece will fall far short of its goal of reaching 50 percent of visitors and revenues during the record-breaking 2019, but still expects to rake in some 12 billion euros ($14.06 billion) in 2021.
That's about a third of the boom year two years earlier before the pandemic began its rage of death and fear in 2020, and is still lingering, expected to endure perhaps another year.
Tourism Minister Vasilis Kikilias – moved from being Health Minister – said that some 2 billion euros ($2.34 billion) had been set aside to promote the island of Evia, Greece's second-largest, that was devastated by wildfires this summer.
He also pointed out that there has been an average cost of 20 per cent increase of costs per visitor in the country, speaking to state-run broadcaster ERT where he said he said the New Democracy government's aim was to keep flights open from the United States, a key market.
That went against a recommendation from the European Union to bar Americans, as the US is prohibiting travelers from the bloc until November, unless they are American citizens going there.
“We fought hard to keep flights from America open until the end of the tourist season. We are talking about eight flights from American companies and one from Emirates, which gave huge added value to Athens and Attica and throughout the country,” he also said.
He said the government wants to lure tourists throughout the year but also to prevent too many visitors from going to the most popular and overrun spots such as Santorini, where the infrastructure just can't keep up with them.
Greece has brought in some 6 million tourists so far this year, even ahead of Spin which regularly leads the EU in foreign arrivals.
The country has reported an increase of 146.8 percent in air traffic during the first half of 2021, with the total number of passengers reaching 12.6 million. In 2020, when lockdowns and entry restrictions were imposed, the Greek airports counted about 8.9 million passengers, said SchengenVisa.Info.com.