ATHENS – Even without the trademark Turkaegean – owned by Turkey – Greece is still luring tourists to the Southern Aegean that had one more than a million arrivals – but the Acropolis in the Greek capital remains a favorite too.
International flights to the Aegean islands in the south jumped 20 percent in July over the same month in 2021, said Kathimerini, which was hindered by limited international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greece lifted health masures this summer in a bid to bring in more tourists whose spending makes the sector the country’s biggest revenue engine, bringing in as much as 18-20 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 196.8 billion euros ($200.3 billion.)
The increase was 13 percent for Rhodes, 8 percent for Kos, 31 percent for Mykonos and 65 percent for Santorini, with Diagoras airport on Rhodes seeing 40,000 people on weekends alone.
In total, three million of tourists had visited the Cyclades and the Dodecanese by July 13, those chains the most popular although the Ionian and Northern Sporades are seeing big numbers too.
The Greek Ministry of Tourism said the Acropolis was seeing 16,000 visitors daily, led by Americans, some 500,000 expected to arrive this year and who began going in March, eager to travel again after lockdowns and slowdowns.
That has brought the totals to record numbers, reaching and likely surpassing those in 2019 before the pandemic struck, noted SchengenVisaInfo.com of Greece’s enduring attractiveness, especially this year, despite stinging purple jellyfish.
Tourism Minister Vasilis Kikilias and Culture Minister Lina Mendoni also have visited the archaeological site of the Acropolis, where special vehicles take disabled people to an elevator for them to get up.
“This proves in practice that the planning of the Ministry of Tourism to extend the period is paying off, as in many cases, the figures of 2022 approach those of 2019, despite the fact that these two years cannot be compared due to multiple crises that all countries face this year (accuracy, inflation, pandemic),” Kikilias told the site.
He didn’t mention Mykonos’ growing reputation for gouging tourists although earlier this summer he ordered an investigation of one notorious spot, DK Oyster House, that brought 30,000 euros ($30,953) but tourists complaining they’re still being overcharged with astronomical bills.
He said that 5.7 million travellers are expected to visit Greece’s capital by air in the second half of this year as the ministry tries to make the country a year-round destination and not just for islands, sun and beaches anymore.