ATHENS – Pandemic? There’s a pandemic? COVID-19 may still be around – and cases rising in Greece again – but that hasn’t deterred hordes of tourists descending on the country and opening their wallets and pocketbooks.
The New Democracy government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who long ago turned his attention away from the pandemic and toward accelerating an economic recovery, has seen a gamble to lure tourists paying off big.
Greece is perhaps the world’s hot spot this year and American airlines are reporting full flights – at expensive ticket prices – for more direct flights being added at US hubs and now including Boston, if you can find a seat.
Read more: Mitsotakis Stresses Encouraging Prospects of Tourism in Greece
But while the data shows a financial grand slam there is the caveat of a rebound of the pandemic and also the world’s airlines inability to deal with the new demand, cancelling thousands of flights daily for lack of staff.
During lockdowns, airlines were given government subsidies to stay aloft – no report where the money went – and responded by giving buyouts to workers and pilots they now can’t replace fast enough, even as they boost ticket prices.
Airports are overwhelmed, said Kathimerini, and staff also trying to cope with the flood of people pouring through checkpoints even though health measures were lifted so that vaccination certificates and COVID tests aren’t needed.
After two years of being almost shut down to tourists over international air traffic grinding to a near-halt, Greece is seeing people return in numbers close to the record-breaking year of 2019.
For now though the government – which said there isn’t enough money to lower a 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on food despite soaring prices – is counting the moolah piling up.
The Bank of Greece said that travel receipts in the first four months of 2022 were 86.6 percent of those in 2019, bringing a bonanza and that the average cost per trip went up 20.3 percent, more people also picking high-end resorts.
The tourist income during that period was also 18 percent higher than even 2019 and on a path to see Greece soaked in money although passenger traffic was only 73 percent but has been rising with the summer here.
But tourist spending is skyrocketing as people crazy to be traveling are setting aside the cost, with revenues in April for Greece hitting 647 million euros ($679.16 million) a 103.5 million-euro ($108.64 million) jump from 2019.
From January-April 2022, travel receipts increased by 576.7 percent compared to the corresponding period of 2021 and amounted to 1.116 billion euros ($1.7 billion) and arrivals jumped astronomically, by 462.7 percent, bringing in 2.128 million travelers compared to 378,300 in the first four months of 2021.