ATHENS – COVID is still in the air but not very much on the minds of most tourists pouring into Greece in such droves it could surpass the previous record-busting year 0f 2019, just before the pandemic struck.
“It seems likely that this will happen, taking into account the picture at popular destinations in Greece. Of course, we have to wait until August to see how things evolve for October and September,” Grigoris Tasios, President of the Hellenic Hoteliers Federation told Kathimerin of 2022’s prospect.
He said occupancy at popular “sun and sea” tourism units was at 80 percent through September, with many units fully booked out although at some mainland destinations like the Peloponnese, Magnesia and Delphi, occupancy rates are low and professionals are still trying to lure people for the summer.
The tourism sector boom is benefitting the economy during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis betting the house on foreign visitors while setting the pandemic aside.
Bank of Greece Governor Yiannis Stournaras said tourism is doing so well that it could bring expansion of a slowly-recovering economy to 3.2 percent growth this year, higher than once thought.
“This is based on the assumption that revenues from travel, from what we call tourism, is going to be 80 percent of the revenues of 2019,” he told the financial news service Bloomberg.
“It seems to be that it is going to be close to 100 percent. So 3.2 percent perhaps is on the lower end of the probability distribution,” he added, which would be good news for Mitsotakis’s government.
Tourism brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the country’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 198.57 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and at its highest employed nearly a million workers.
But there are shortages of about 55,000 tourism employees this year, from chefs to waiters and cleaning crews as people gave up seasonal jobs during COVID lockdowns that nearly shut down the industry.
The fall of the euro to near-parity with the dollar makes Greece even cheaper for Americans, some 500,000 expected this year, while many Greeks hit by record inflation are staying home in their own country they can’t afford.