ATHENS – The COVID-19 pandemic all but forgotten despite still being deadly, Greece is on a path to break tourism records but hoteliers worry an overnight stay tax in 2024 could bring a slowdown in visitors.
Based on arrivals and projections, some 31 million tourists – three times the country’s population – will come through 2023 as the Tourism Ministry is pushing year-round destinations and alternatives to summer and islands.
They are seen also spending some 21 billion euros ($22.46 billion) and easily busting the pre-pandemic 2019 record of 18.2 billion euros ($19.47 billion) in the sector that’s the country’s biggest revenue engine.
Greek National Tourism Organization General-Secretary Dimitris Fragakis, said that, “We have an increase in air arrivals throughout the country but also an increase in travel receipts at least for the first half of the year for which we have specific data. July and August also moved accordingly, as Greece has proven to be one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world.”
But a plan to recoup losses caused by wildfires and floods that cost billions of euros in damages and state subsidies to people and affected businesses by putting a tax of 1-6 euros ($1.06-$6.42) on mainly luxury hotels has brought blowback.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that was necessitated by the disasters but has brought worries from hoteliers that – in addition to heat and natural catastrophes – that tourists would choose other countries in 2024.
The British-German tour operator Tui said it will extend travel package for Greece and Turkey into November because of increased demand as more tourists want to escape summer traffic and find more pleasant weather.
The company, which operates hotels, aircraft and cruise ships, had 13.7 million bookings in the summer, up 5 percent from 2022 and at 96 percent of pre-pandemic levels, said the British newspaper The Guardian.
CEO Sebastian Ebel said, “We have seen strong demand in the final weeks of the summer season which traditionally runs to the end of October. As a consequence, we recently announced the extension of the season into November in particular to Turkey and Greece, to cover demand outside the traditional summer season.”
But he said he expects global heating will increase demand for cooler destinations in Scandinavia, Belgium and the Netherlands, while the Canary Islands will also “benefit from a more moderate climate,” more competition for Greece.
Tui is adding about 30,000 seats on planes from the UK to destinations such as Rhodes, Crete and Antalya in Turkey, favored by Germans as an autumn and winter destination as well.