During his official visit to Greece, UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai commended the growth of the tourism sector saying that 2014 will come to an exceptional close. Rifai met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Minister of Tourism Olga Kefalogianni and commended the premier on taking crucial steps to support tourism in Greece, like reducing VAT on hotel and tourist services, facilitating the cruise industry, and simplifying visa procedures.
The number of international visitors to Greece in the first half of 2014 grew by 17%, driven by the strong demand from key European outbound markets such as Germany and the United Kingdom. These figures are well above the growth registered in Southern European destinations (+7%), consolidate the very positive performance of 2013 and confirm the importance of the tourism sector as a stronghold of Greece´s economy. In 2013, international tourists in Greece reached 18 million (+16%) generating 16 billion USD (+13%).
Prime Minister Samaras has expressed solid support to tourism recalling that Greece´s tourism sector is “the first locomotive that started and began to pull our economy out of a painful six-year recession,” according to the UNWTO report. “These measures enhance the competitiveness of Greece’s tourism while sending a very strong political message of support to the sector” said Mr Rifai.
Mr Rifai also stressed the importance of giving continuity to the current tourism policy as a means to ensure the sector continues to play a key role in the country’s economic growth and stability and committed to continue supporting Greece in advancing its tourism sector.