Tourism is the main industry of the country. Despite the political turmoil, the travel industry has been going strong this year. Last year, a record 24 million tourists visited Greece, spending 13.5 billion euros. It is said that about 25 million visitors and more than 14 billion euros in spending are anticipated this year.
Luckily, numerous tourism companies in Greece said that tours, hotels and vacation packages had not been affected by the country’s economic deterioration.
The contribution of Passenger Shipping through direct and indirect actions in the tourist business and the national economy is 11.8 billion euros or 6,5% of the GNP of Greece as well as 260,000 jobs or 50% of the total employment of the Greek Islands.
For 2015 we expect to have 8.500.000 people traveling to the Greek Islands. One has to note that 100% of the total traffic of goods between the islands and the mainland is transported by sea.
In the Adriatic Sea, 55% of the total traffic derives from incoming tourism.
The new VAT rates imposed on transportation, catering and restaurants as well as the abolishment of tax exemptions for Greek islands will certainly damage tourism in 2016. The key issue is whether the Greek travel industry will manage to remain competitive in terms of prices and quality.
If we wish to build for the future, passenger shipping should be integrated in the long-term national development strategy.
There is a need to modernize the institutional framework based on limiting the state intervention and the public service obligations as imposed to shipping companies. The State must not be the regulator but the coordinator, especially when the small islands are concerned.