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Greece: Inbound Tourism On Right Track, Domestic Down

Tourists gathered in front of the Parliament building on Syntagma Square and wait to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in central Athens. According to the Tourism Ministry, the city’s tourism development will include a strategy that will extend to neighborhoods throughout the city and not be not limited to the historic center.

Photo copyright: GTP

Tourism in Greece is set to reach a second consecutive record this year as Greek hoteliers expect the country to attract 18.5 million international arrivals and generate 13.5 billion euros in revenues, according to the president of the Hellenic Federation of Hoteliers, Yiannis Retsos.

During a media briefing in Athens on 14 May, the federation’s president said many hotels in Greece are already welcoming tourists while bookings for June are also on the up. He underlined that Greece’s target from this time forth should focus on boosting tourism revenue, which can be achieved by extending the season (to seven or eight months) and attracting tourists of higher income level.

“Only then will Greece reach its target and generate direct annual revenue of 19 billion euros by 2021,” Mr. Restos underlined.

Athens is also showing a progress in terms of tourism, as already a 30 percent increase in arrivals has been recorded. The fact that Athens now sports a calmer image and no longer makes headlines that refer to strikes, demonstrations and street riots has contributed to the Greek capital’s rise in tourism.

However, Mr Retsos said that at least two years are needed for Athens to catch up on hotel occupancy and create more job positions. (During 2008-2013, some 30 hotels located in the center of Athens shut down due to the crisis and drop of arrivals.)

Domestic tourism

When asked about the course of Greece’s domestic tourism market, Mr. Restos noted that although data showed that Greeks did in fact travel in the country this year (during public holidays, etc.), at least three years are needed for the market to get back on track.

He added that 2014 is expected to be another difficult year for domestic tourism as while international arrivals are rising, so are the prices. This limits the opportunities for the Greeks to find affordable deals.

Mr. Retsos said that “booking early” is the key for Greeks to find better deals. “If Greeks make last minute reservations, they will be up against the law of supply and demand. And this year the demand for Greece is strong,” the federation’s president said.

On arrivals from Russia this year, Mr. Retsos said the sector expects no increase. “We are focusing to at least maintain last year’s levels of arrivals and revenue,” he said.

He added that Germany will bring “good news” for Greek tourism this year as arrivals from the country are expected to reach 2.8 million, a figure Greece has not seen from the German market since 2006. Last year, Greece attracted 2.3 million German tourists.

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