Greece expects half a million tourists from the U.S. this year, more than any other time before, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias said on Monday.
“We have never had 500,000 travelers directly from the U.S. to Athens [in one year],” Kikilias said, reminding that the first flights arrived on March 7th from Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston, “and there is now a direct service on all three major American [airline] companies,” he said.
Nine flights a day are expected from the U.S. alone, a number that corresponds to 63 flights a week, while—as Kikilias said—there seems to be the possibility of direct flights to other major U.S. airports as well as from the U.S. to Thessaloniki.
“Tourism is the great economic engine of the country—and rightly so,” said the minister, referring extensively to the optimistic messages for this year’s tourism season both in terms of reservations and the level of first-time arrivals in the country, citing the example of increased tourist flows from the U.S.
Kikilias made a special reference to the qualitative data of this year’s tourism arrivals, as well as the strategy for the extension of the tourism season in Greece; this is being implemented after much effort not only by the ministry but also by the Greek National Tourism Organization, Marketing Greece, tourism officials across the country, and the private sector.
U.S. tourists in Greece are of high incomes
“Strategically, since last winter, we have targeted the prolongation of the tourism season and highlighted more destinations,” said the tourism minister, stressing that travelers who arrive to Greece, particularly from the U.S., are of high incomes and match the profile for the tourism product upgrade Greece is targeting.
“We have brought forward the start of the tourism season and delayed its end; we are creating a particular concept and strengthening all regions so that their income is increased and the domestic economy will be bolstered, along with our products and our primary output,” explained Kikilias, noting that road tourism has already increased at 180 percent annually while cruise tourism has had a growth of 130 percent annually.