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Greece Leads all European Nations in Summer Tourism in 2021

Greece Tourism
A yacht moored off a Greek island. Greece experienced a fairly successful tourism year so far, considering the widespread ramifications of the pandemic. Credit: Greek Reporter/Alex Besant

Greece welcomed more than two million visitors to its shores during just the months of July and August of 2021 — more than any other European nation — marking real success in its vital tourism industry despite the pandemic that is still raging across the world.

The two most popular months for Greek tourism haven’t seen that many visitors since 2019, which was a record year for Greek tourism. In remarks he made just before leaving his post, former Greek tourism Minister Haris Theocharis praised the country’s performance, adding that Greece has welcomed more than six million tourists this year.

In a report, Theoharis stated “In fact, in July, for the first time, our country surpassed France itself as a favorite destination for the French. That is, the French travelled more to Greece than to their own country. This is a very important development.”

This means that more than 450,000 French tourists visited the Greek islands alone this summer.

The Financial Times reports that the country as a whole welcomed approximately 25 percent more tourists than Spain, the country’s traditional tourism competitor.

Meanwhile, the Greek Aviation Authority states that air traffic during the first half of 2021 increased by 146.8% over 2020. However, this still constitutes a 63.5% decline from the stratospheric levels seen in 2019.

Hellenic Hoteliers Federation President Grigoris Tasios said on Monday during his visit to the 85th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) that Greek tourism this Summer has proved to be very positive.

Greece Tourism Revenues Half of 2019’s Record Earnings

In remarks to the media, Tasios said that the country’s tourism revenue this year has already reached half of 2019’s sky-high earnings — and tourism still continues in many warmer areas of the country, well into the “shoulder season.”

“We believe that September will also be a good month,” Tasios added, saying that this positive data points the way toward an even more prosperous 2022 for Greek tourism.

“It seems that we will reach 45 to 50 percent of 2019 revenue in almost all destinations and this will lead to a normal 2022,” he stated.

Federation President Tasios noted that although the number of overland tourism arrivals from the Balkan states is expected to decline from this point for the rest of the year, Thessaloniki’s Makedonia Airport is expected to welcome passengers from markets such as Germany and the UK well into September as tourists come to enjoy the warmth of the shoulder season in Greece.

Tasios said that the South Aegean Region, including the Cyclades and Dodecanese archipelagos, saw the most overnight stays for another year during the Summer of 2021.

Greece Tourist Minister Assures US Travelers Can Still Visit Country

Greece’s new Minister of Tourism, Vassilis Kikilias, said in a statement that tourists from the United States can continue to visit Greece until the end of the tourist season without becoming subject to additional COVID-19 related restrictions.

This comes as the US suffers a surge in the number of infections caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus, with many states and companies reinstituting masking requirements and mandating vaccinations for their employees.

“Greece will continue to receive visitors from the US until the end of the tourist season,” Kikilias assured the public, according to a report from report.

Kikilias reiterated that the US is a major market “which creates added value in the country’s economy.”

Per capita, American tourists spend more than 1,000 euros on their trips to Greece, making them among the top international travelers who spend the most while on their Greek vacations.

“Visitors and tourism professionals in the United States of America, and, of course, Greeks abroad, have shown and continue to show their love for Greece and their trust in the Greek tourism product,” Kikilias pointed out.

The Greek Tourism Minister made his remarks after the Council of the European Union removed the US from the list of nations that are considered at less risk from the virus last week. The Council urged its 27 member states to tighten up their travel restrictions for Americans and ban non-essential travel altogether.

However, Greece considers the EC’s recommendation non-binding and has decided not to implement it as the bulk of the tourist season has passed.

A NOTAM issued by the Greek Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) indicated that Greece would not follow the advice to tighten restrictions for the US citizens, despite the spike in infections in the US and the prevalence of the new variant Mu, which has now has been identified in 49 states.

The European nations of Iceland, Ireland, Portugal, and Croatia went along with Greece in also refusing to abide by the recommendations of the Council, allowing US tourists to continue to cross their borders. However, Americans must still meet specific requirements when planning to travel to these nations.

Meanwhile, the US continues its own ban on travelers from Europe — and even Canada — that has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic.

Although the European statistics authority EUROSTAT showed in its most recent report that Greece experienced a 60% decrease in stays in hotel rooms and other accommodations this year, the 2021 tourism season salvaged a great deal of business through prudent management.

This includes a successful vaccination program, which was targeted at residents of islands and those in the tourist industry in particular. The inoculation campaign resulted in over 65.8% of Greeks now having at least the first dose of a vaccine, and 63.4% of the population being fully immunized.

Those who do not wish to receive the vaccinated must fulfill other requirements, including frequent testing, wearing masks and following other measures.

“Vaccination is the only way to freedom not for others, but for ourselves and our immediate family environment, the people we love. We must protect them,” Theoharis said during the Summer tourism season.

The World Travel and Tourism Council noted earlier this Summer that the Hellenic Republic set an example for other nations regarding actions taken to revitalize its economy through the travel and tourism industry.

The relative success of the season is in part due not only to the country’s well-established hospitality industry but also by the nation’s acceptance of a range of different vaccines — not only the major Western inoculations — for proof of inoculation.

Greece recognizes the most vaccines of any European country, which means that travellers from all over the world inoculated with one of these products — including Sputnik V from Russia and Sinovax from China — are allowed to enter the country and are exempted from quarantine restrictions.

The travel website VisaGuide.World has created a tool that lets potential travelers know if their vaccine will be valid in the country they intend to visit.

In his August remarks, Theocharis also lauded the domestic “Tourism for All” program, which led to an increase in Greeks spending their tourist euros in their own country this Summer. He stated that there indeed had been an increase in such domestic tourism, which was in part an outgrowth of the country emerging from the economic crisis Greece had experienced for years.

“We intend to expand these programs as much as possible,” Theoharis stated. “We will use them as much as we can, we will keep them alive in the coming years because we saw that they had a substantial result.”

The program, which started in June, had a goal of allocating €30 million for enabling 250,000 Greek citizens to enjoy their annual vacations in the Greek islands.

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