ATHENS – The COVID-19 pandemic still has a deadly grip on the country as it will begin a third year in March but Greece is still expecting a big return of tourists allowed to travel more internationally, amid hopes that restrictions will ease further and the Coronavirus wane.
Initial estimates of arrivals are optimistic, the Tourism Ministry said, according to the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency AMNA, with a big bump over the gradual recovery year of 2021 as the New Democracy government is campaigning to get foreign visitors to come all year round.
“Greek tourism has shown remarkable resilience over the past two years, sending a strong message of safety to travelers and it will do so again this year,” Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias said.
That came as Greece as of Feb. 7 will no longer required arrivals to present a negative COVID test if they are fully vaccinated and meet European Union Green Pass requirements.
He also said that a record number of cruise ship arrivals are expected in 2022, the first one arriving in the country’s second-lartest port of Thessaloniki on Feb. 4 in a winter season normally a down time for tourism.
Tourism is the country’s biggest revenue engine, bringing in as much as 18-20 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 175 billion euros ($200.3 million) and employing almost a million workers directly and indirectly.
Government officials predicted the economy will grow as much as 5 percent in 2022, largely on the back of tourism, with Reuters reporting that the think tank IOBE said it grew more than 9 percent in 2021 as the pandemic spread.
IOBE said tourism revenues for this year could hit 80-90 percent of the record year of 2012 and also projected overall economic growth to be slightly higher than the government’s prognostication.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has turned his attention toward the economy and eased health measures even as COVID deaths hit record years as he tries to spur a faster recovery.
“Despite the fact that last year’s base will be higher, we are revising growth a bit upwards as the economy shows strong dynamism,” IOBE head Nikos Vettas said. “This inflation rate is not something the economy cannot handle,” he said, reported the site Travel Pulse.
If that works out the tourism sector could help bring down the unemployment rate that’s at 13.5 percent and with hopes that rising inflation would slow to under 2 percent for the year.
In addition, the impact of the resurgent tourism industry is expected to bring down unemployment to an average of 13.5 percent next year. Consumer inflation is expected to slow to some 1.5-2 percent in 2022.