ATHENS – While even what looks to be a record-busting year during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic isn’t enough to accelerate an economic recovery in Greece, it will help deal with jumping energy prices cutting into the budget.
Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said the better-than-expected number of arrivals and people opening their wallets will give the state monies to keep providing subsidies to households and businesses whacked with nearly doubled electric bills, said Reuters.
Tourism brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 195.86 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and at its height before the Coronavirus struck in 2020 employed nearly a million people.
Government and industry officials predicted that tourism revenues could reach 90 percent – possibly more and set a record surpassing 2019 – enough to help with the energy crisis but not fully right the economy that’s expected to grow nonetheless.
“As we go through the first days of August, we can see that tourism traffic in our country is registering a strong momentum, with tourism flows exceeding even the most optimistic initial forecasts,” Oikonomou told journalists.
“Tourism revenues are enabling the state to further support society, which is being battered by crises in energy and elsewhere, and to give us valuable reserves ahead of the coming winter,” he also said.
Foreign arrivals at the country’s airports reached 3,481,000 in June, up 193 percent from 1,190,000 arrivals in June of 2021 and around the same level as in June 2019, Oikonomou said, despite delays and cancellations plaguing the airline industry.
He said that more than one million visitors were expected the first week of August in Athens, which has a population of about 4 million, and has become a destination rivaling islands and not just a stop-off anymore.
Greece, one of the most popular summer destinations in Europe, drew a record 32 million visitors in 2019, bringing in about 18 billion euros ($18.41) in revenues now needed more than ever.
Greece, like many European Union countries, is facing a sharp rise in power bills driven by jumping natural gas prices, largely because of the effect of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine.
The government has spent about 7 billion euros ($7.16 billion) on power subsidies and other measures since September, 2021 to help households, businesses and farmers pay their electricity and gas bills, the news agency said.