ATHENS – Opening to tourists during the COVID-19 pandemic paid off for Greece, bringing in more than 10 billion euros ($11.33 billion) as the sector returned to nearly 75 percent of the record year of 2019.
The numbers have dropped off sharply, however, in the autumn as the pandemic has worsened and now the Omicron Variant’s appearance could be another obstacle to trying to pitch winter and year-round tourism.
Still, the returns were some 4 billion euros ($4.53 billion) higher than expected as the New Democracy government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakks has turned its attention toward the economy, especially tourism and trying to lure more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI.)
Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, who has no experience in the field, told France 24 that, The year is not over yet, yes, we have tourists in Athens, Crete, Rhodes, and we are ready to campaign for the first time for winter tourism in Greece.” He didn’t mention the recent downturn in visitors.
The sector brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product of 176.84 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and in 2019 saw almost 33 million – three times the population – arrive.
He pointed out that it was Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis who proposed a European Union COVID Green Pass to accelerate travel under safe conditions, SchengenVisaInfo.com reported.
“(The document) created new conditions of safety and confidence for travellers across Europe, with visible results for Greece even in November,” contradicting other reports the numbers fell then.
He said 2022 is shaping up to be a big year as the government is counting on tourism to speed an economic return although whether COVID-19 and variants are around is the big catalyst and worry.
Eurobank’s Alternate Chief Executive Konstantinos Vassiliou said that tourism in 2022 will be the biggest in 20 years with the release of pent-up demand, said Kathimerini, as he announced a 750-million euro ($850.12 million) funding package for tourism.
Along with a previous program that will bring the bank’s investment in loans for the sectot to $1.5 billion ($1.7 billin) within four years, the money going to hotel construction and expansion, upgrades, acquisitions and also refinancings.