With the COVID-19 pandemic all but forgotten – despite still hospitalizing and killing people – tourists in 2023 returned to Greece in such numbers the sector is on a path to break records set in 2019 before the Coronavirus struck.
Data from the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) for the first 10 months showed there were 23 million international air arrivals, an 11.5 percent jump over the same period in 2022 when health restrictions were lifted.
That also represented a 2.4 million increase in visitors, some 12 percent more than the previous record year of 2019, Greece likely to see more than 30 million by the year’s end, bringing in as much as 20 billion euros ($21.73 billion.)
The main hub of Athens International Airport had a 28.4 percent increase, driven by hordes coming in the summer despite record heat, deadly fires that saw tourists fleeing parts of Rhodes, and then deadly floods struck.
There were also similar big jumps at the airport in Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki as well as on the bigger island, Crete, at Chania airport, and with heavy traffic at regional airports on islands and across the mainland.
Tourism is the country’s biggest revenue engine and brings in as much as 20 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 242.385 billion euros ($223.06 billion) and at its peak employed nearly a million people.