Greek tourism is on track for a record year, confirming the industry’s role as the driver of the country’s economy, the latest data from the Bank of Greece show.
According to official data, the country welcomed a total of 5.76 million international travelers in the first five months of 2023, 32.9% up from the same period in 2022.
More recent data on international arrivals through Athens International Airport – a proxy for overall visitor numbers – show arrivals up 30% year-on-year in the seven months through July, and 8% above the same period in 2019, the previous record year.
“The momentum in spring, the first positive indications from summer bookings, and an improvement in consumer confidence in major markets have set the stage for record arrivals in 2023,” said National Bank of Greece in a recent report.
It projects that tourism revenues this year could surpass the previous 2019 record by 20% and reach €21 billion this year.
A large part of this higher revenue is due to higher prices caused by inflation that are expected to make up for the slightly shorter duration of visitors’ vacations.
Trends affecting Greek tourism
The report makes note of two new trends that could continue in the coming years:
First, the rise of new tourist destinations, less saturated with visitors, such as Mytilene, the capital of the island of Lesvos, and Kavala, a city in mainland northern Greece;
Second, more intense competition from countries such as Turkey, which increased its share of the Mediterranean holiday market from 19% in 2019 to 22% in 2022, while Greece saw its share stay steady at 13%, and Albania, whose share is still in the low single digits but has increased 24% since 2019.
Visitors from the US accounted for a large part of the gains and their high spending (€1,000 compared to €599 for all visitors) boosted revenue. On the other hand, arrivals from the UK dropped 5% from 2022, as did average spending (€668 from €713).
The report notes that a significant change was that the tourist period started early in 2023, and the big cities, mainly Athens, benefited. Sales of city hotels rose from 38% of the total in 2019 to 41% in early 2023, while the islands’ share dropped slightly, from 51% to 48%. Athens is no longer merely a transit stop on the way to the islands.
The July wildfire in Rhodes could result in a 1% drop in visitors, the report notes, adding that the southeastern Aegean island accounted for 16% of all visitors in 2022 and for 17% of guests at 4 and 5-star accommodation.
Over the last five years, Greece’s hospitality sector has welcomed a rush of investment with more than 150 new and refurbished hotels – most in the 4- and 5-star category − opening their doors around the country and including more than 60 in just Athens alone.