Record boost as Greece sees big surge in visitors

 

After a difficult few years, Greece expects to attract a record 17 million international visitors this year which will no doubt help boost the country’s fragile economy.

International tourist arrivals at the country’s 16 largest airports have risen significantly by 9.3% to 6.9 million during the first seven months of 2013.

The Peloponnese airport of Kalamata has seen the biggest rise at more than 43%, followed by Chania (Crete) and the airport at Santorini.

The new organisation that represents the country’s tourism industry, Marketing Greece, says Greece is on track to draw a record 17 million visitors by the end of the year, who are likely to spend an estimated €11.1 billion (£9.3 billion).

There’s more optimism on the horizon, still, as new figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority reveal that the boost from tourism is “more robust than originally estimated”.  Greece’s GDP (gross domestic product) contracted by 3.8% in the second quarter which was lower than the 4.6% decline which many had anticipated.

This good news marks the smallest year-to-year decrease in the Greek economy since 2010, which means Greece can now hope to return to a year of growth in 2014 following six years of contraction.

Tourism receipts, the country’s biggest revenue stream (the tourist industry accounts for one in five jobs in Greece) rose by a very healthy 15.5% in the first five months of this year as opposed to dropping about 5% in 2012, making next year’s outlook much brighter.

Greek museums and archaeological sites are also reporting strong interest, with visitor numbers growing by 17% and 30.8% respectively in the first five months of the year over 2012.

There’s good news for timeshare owners visiting Greece soon, too, as the VAT rate in the hospitality industry decreased from 23% to 13% from August 1.

With recent political instability in destinations such as Egypt and Turkey, Greece also stands to benefit.

Ryanair is also expanding its services to the country – in April it opened its first base in the country – in Crete – while earlier this summer a brand new terminal to the tune of £3.5 million opened at the port of Piraeus (for Athens).

Commenting on the positive upturn, Marketing Greece’s general manager Iossif Parsalis said: “After a long period of turbulence, instability and negative publicity, the latest official figures are very encouraging, confirming that the tourism industry remains of vital importance to the country’s economy.

“Greece is a safe and welcoming destination and Marketing Greece is fully committed to putting the country back on the tourist map.”

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