ATHENS – The Americans are back! All indications are that adding to a banner tourism year in 2022 even during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic is that the charge is being helped by the return of those from the United States, led by the Greek-American Diaspora.
Some 500,000 Americans – a record – is expected, aided by more than 60 direct weekly flights between the US and Athens as American airlines scrambled to meet the pent-up demand, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias told SKAI radio.
“Tourism is the great economic engine of the country – and rightly so,” he said, the sector accounting for up to 20 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 189.71 billion euros ($200.3 billion.)
He said that the numbers are being shown in arrivals, spending and booking of tourism packages by agencies with Greece one of the world’s top lures, people anxious for sun and beaches and getting away from the reminder of COVID.
“We have never had 500,000 travelers directly from the US to Athens [in one year],” Kikilias said, reminding that the first flights arrived March 7 from Atlanta, Chicago and Boston, “and there is now a direct service on all three major American [air] companies,” competing to fill seats.
Nine flights a day will be conducted from the US alone, a number that corresponds to 63 flights a week, while – as Kikilias said – there seems to be the possibility of direct flights to other major US airports, and from the US to Thessaloniki too.