The internet is currently playing a vital and growing role in the tourism sector, with online sales and research rates increasing over the last years in European countries, including Greece, according to a study conducted by Oxford Economics for Google.
The study titled, “The Impact of Online Content on European Tourism”, was presented on Thursday by David Goodger, director of Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, during an event organized by Google and the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE).
According to the study’s key findings, the proportion of travel organized or booked online has increased from 43 percent in 2012 to 56 percent (+13 percent) in 2016 across EU member countries. Increased online information has raised destination competitiveness leading to growth in tourism demand and revenue, and has also emboldened travelers to make additional trips. A clear return in terms of additional job creation has been calculated for the Southern European countries.
Opportunity for further growth in Greece
Greece and Cyprus have made significant progress and a greater share of tourism is now organized online, but there is still a large opportunity for further growth, as indicated by SETE president Yiannis Retsos.
“(In 2012) Greek tourism enterprises were not using the Internet as much as companies were in other countries, with the percentage of Internet connectivity being very low,” he said. “Many steps have been taken since then for the digitization of Greek tourism… Large tourism companies have become aware of the power of the Internet and have invested on it,” Retsos added.
Retsos also referred to the activities and programs developed by Internet companies particularly for SME’s, including the “Grow Greek Tourism Online” by Google, which aims to train sector professionals on the use of online technology and help them attract visitors all year round. Since the start of the program three years ago, more than 70,000 professionals have been trained throughout the country.
The economic impact
The current economic impact of online tourism content (the online footprint) is the lowest in Greece due to the smaller share of travel organized online, but at 3.2 percent of GDP, this is still a significant proportion equivalent to 5.7 billion euros. Only 17 percent of travels towards Greece were booked via the Internet in 2016, compared to 7 percent in 2012. According to the study, catch-up with current best practice in source markets would generate a further 170,000 jobs across the Greek economy.
Culture dominates tourism-related searches
The Oxford Economics study showed that tourism-related searches have grown by around 45 percent since 2010, as today 60 percent of travelers in Southeastern Europe use related websites and the social media to gather information.
The cultural online content (in regards to museums, arts/festivals, historical sites/buildings, and music) is widely being sought online compared to other tourism searches.
Across six popular tourism destinations – Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Croatia, Italy, Spain – 23 percent of searches were culture-related.
Furthermore, 56 percent of culture-related searches for Greece was conducted by American travelers, 36 percent by Dutch and 34 percent by UK travelers. The percentage for German, Russian and French tourists is at 24 percent for each country and for Italians at 28 percent. The aforementioned countries are Greece’s main tourism sources.
The study updates a previous report in 2013 undertaken for Google by Oxford Economics.