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Why Greece’s Tourism Industry Is Doing So Well?

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Greece hopes that in 2022, tourism will reach 90 percent of the pre-pandemic level. Credit: Greek Reporter

After two years of lockdowns, tourism in Greece is making a strong comeback with officials claiming that 2022 tourism revenues will reach 90 percent of their pre-pandemic 2019 level during which the country saw receipts of 18 billion euros on the back of 33 million arrivals.

According to the data of the Bank of Greece in April, revenues from tourism were above the levels of April 2019, marking an increase of almost 100 million euros while in May, passenger arrivals from abroad at Greek airports recorded an increase of 3.2 percent, compared to May 2019.

A recent report by ForwardKeys conducted for World Travel Market, reveals that six Greek tourist destinations are in the top ten in travel bookings in Europe for the third quarter of 2022, i.e. in the months of July, August, and September.

According to the report, Mykonos and Rhodes recorded an increase of 29 percent compared to the same period in 2019 while Chania had an increase of 26 percent, and Heraklion of 23 percent. Arrivals to Santorini increased by 20 percent while the increase in Thessaloniki amounted to 17 percent.

Greece is the only country in Europe on the road to full post-COVID-19 recovery of its total and direct air connectivity, according to the Airport Industry Connectivity Report for 2022 released recently by ACI Europe, the trade association of Europe’s airports.

Passenger traffic in the Athens International Airport was close to 2019 levels in June. Passenger traffic totaled 2.43 million in the Athens airport, dropping by 6.8 percent from June 2019 while in the first six months of the year, passenger traffic reached 9.0 million, down 20.3 percent from 2019.

Data also show that Greece is preparing to welcome some 5,000 cruise ships in 2022, a 25 percent increase compared to pre-COVID 2019.

The port of Piraeus alone is set to welcome 750 cruise ships this year, including arrivals by newcomers Virgin Cruises and the ultraluxury Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Of that, 66 percent will be homeporting out of Piraeus, Greece’s largest port.

Why is tourism in Greece going strong?

The impressive recovery of tourism in Greece is partly attributed to the fact that the country opened early for foreign tourists after the Greek Orthodox Easter, which was on April 24th.

In addition, Greece was among the first European countries to reopen its borders to non-essential travel. All COVID-19 restrictions to travel have been lifted.

To fly in or out of the country, travelers were previously required to show either a vaccination certificate, a certificate saying they had recovered from coronavirus or a negative test.

Currently, no proof of a negative test or vaccination is required to enter the country, and passengers on airplanes are not required to wear a mask.

The war in Ukraine has little impact on Greek tourism

Greek tourism enterprises are not likely to be affected by the Russia-Ukraine war, with new markets already replacing tourists from the two countries, found a report released recently by the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce in collaboration with Palmos Analysis.

The study was conducted on 331 tourism business owners and executives (hoteliers, travel agents, F&B services, car and boat rentals, and campsites) in May in Crete, Northern Greece, Ionian Islands, and South Aegean Region.

According to the findings, Russian and Ukrainian tourists account for a small percentage of visitors to Greece, and the interruption of tourist flows from the two markets will have a limited effect on the viability of Greek tourism businesses.

Record number of tourists from the US

There is a surge in demand for airline tickets from the United States to Greece this summer.

Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias said that over 500,000 travelers from the largest American airports (New York, Newark, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington Dulles) are expected to arrive in Greece on direct flights alone this tourism season.

Greece currently welcomes nine direct daily flights from the US, a number that corresponds to 63 flights per week. Travelers who arrive from the US, are of high incomes and match the profile for the tourism product upgrade Greece is targeting.

Increasing airfares do not reduce demand

People’s desire to travel is so strong that rising airfares have done little to dampen demand, the ForwardKeys survey data shows.

For example, the average fare from the US to Europe rose more than 35 percent between January and May, with no noticeable slowdown in bookings. It is noted that these fares are almost 60 percent higher than the previous year.

Notable from the survey is that American travelers plan to stay longer and spend more than they did in 2019. The average planned length of stay in the third quarter is twelve days, up from eleven days in 2019.

Promoting Greece as a brand

Greece succeeded in protecting its image as a safe destination during the pandemic. In particular, during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, world media and policy-makers throughout Europe were praising Greece for its response.

Even during COVID-19 lockdowns, Greece ran campaigns abroad, and it was working closely with all the big players in the market, including airlines, tour operators, leading international digital platforms, media, and digital media, utilizing and enhancing its digital face.

The 2022 campaign kicked off this winter with “Greece does have a winter” and “Greekend*”, which changed the way Greece is promoted abroad in terms of its tourism image.


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