Peak season discounts and offers by Greek hoteliers, cheaper airfares on low cost carriers, and an increase in the number of visitors choosing Athens and Thessaloniki for short city breaks are cited by the Bank of Greece (BoG) as reasons for the slumping tourism revenues in 2016 despite the swelling number of arrivals.
The BoG survey on monetary policy for 2016-2017 released recently goes on to add that the decrease in overnight stays and the cheaper rates during the peak season as well as the global trend of travelers spending less per trip have taken a bite out of tourism-related revenue, and urges sector stakeholders to focus more on attracting additional overnight stays rather than increasing foreign visitor arrivals.
According to central bank data, the number of arrivals and overnight stays for 2016 grew by 5.1 percent and 2.9 percent respectively, while travel receipts dropped by 6.8 percent. In efforts to clarify the arrival-revenue divergence that has created controversy among sector circles, BoG analysts compared data from the last six years finding that a gap between arrivals/overnight stays and travel receipts first appeared in 2014, culminating in 2016.
Indicatively, tourist arrivals in 2013 were at 18 million, 22 million in 2014, 23.6 million in 2015 and 24.8 million visitors in 2016 while average spending per per visitor came to 653.3 euros in 2013, 590.2 euros in 2014, 582.9 euros in 2015 and 514.3 euros in 2016.
The analysts note that data also excludes the possibility of tax evasion on behalf of property owners leasing out their homes as Airbnb-style tourist accommodation.
In conclusion, the majority of overnight stays in 2016 were made from May to October, when hotel rates were particularly low, thus affecting travel revenue.