The number of international tourists visiting Greece in the first half of 2014 grew by 17 percent, driven by the strong demand from key European outbound markets such as Germany and the United Kingdom.
“Such results, which are well above the growth registered in Southern European destinations (+7%), consolidate the very positive performance of 2013 and confirm the importance of the tourism sector as a stronghold of Greece’s economy,” the UNWTO said.
In 2013, international tourists in Greece reached 18 million (+16%) generating US$ 16 billion (+13%).
According to the UNWTO, the strength of the tourism sector in Greece is the result of a robust tourism policy, of the implementation of fundamental competitiveness measures and of the immense capacity of the private sector to adjust to a fast changing market.
The UNWTO’s secretary general met with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras during his recent official visit to Greece.
An announcement by the UNWTO noted that the Greek PM has expressed solid support to tourism recalling that Greece’s tourism sector is “the first locomotive that started and began to pull our economy out of a painful six-year recession.”
During the meeting, which was also attended by the Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni, Mr. Rifai commended Prime Minister Samaras on taking key steps to support the tourism sector, including simplifying visa procedures to encourage travel to Greece, reducing the Value Added Tax (VAT) on hotels and tourism services, and supporting the cruise industry.
“These measures enhance the competitiveness of Greece’s tourism while sending a very strong political message of support to the sector,” Mr. Rifai said.
On behalf of UNWTO, Mr. Rifai underscored the importance of giving continuity to the current tourism policy as a means to ensure the sector continues to play a key role in the country’s economic growth and stability and committed to continue supporting Greece in advancing its tourism sector.