Athens Mayor: City Break Visitor Numbers Soar by 600% Since 2013
Tourism arrivals to Athens are on the rise with the Greek capital establishing itself as a major congress destination, while increasing the number of city break visitors by 600 percent since 2013, according to the Mayor of Athens Giorgos Kaminis.
Speaking to reporters during a press conference on Thursday, the mayor said that in 2012 – the time when Athens was undergoing difficult times due to the crisis – arrivals at the Athens International Airport (AIA) had reached the lowest point in years at 2.5 million. In 2017 arrivals doubled to 5 million.
Furthermore, during the first four months of 2018, occupancy rates at Athens hotels increased by some 5 percent. “Four out of 10 tourists are city break visitors,” the mayor said.
Meanwhile, according to data published by AIA, between January and May 2018, passenger traffic at Athens Airport exceeded 8 million, achieving double-digit growth by 10.9 percent.
The mayor informed that in efforts to sustain the trend and further enhance the momentum, the City of Athens is carrying out a number of projects under the Athens Tourism Partnership, an initiative currently running with the collaboration of AEGEAN and AIA.
As part of the initiative, the municipality has launched a new campaign in collaboration with Mastercard, aiming to attract holidaymakers from France. Targeting exclusively Mastercard holders, the campaign introduces the French to three of Athens’ experiences, providing them with the opportunity to tour the Acropolis and the Athens Observatory under the night sky; learn more on Greek cuisine and participate in an ancient Greek symposium.
Airbnb’s two-sided effect
During the press conference, the Mayor also referred to the short-term lease of private homes/apartments and Airbnb’s “two-sided effect”. “We have the positive side, as Airbnb has increased Athens’ visitors… and revived areas that have suffered due to abandonment and vacant houses,” the Mayor said.
“However, when the home-sharing practice is applied without a plan we see the negative effects. We don’t want this rapid growth to alter the character of Athens’ traditional neighborhoods,” he added.
In efforts to address the challenge, in early July the City of Athens is planning to host an event with the participation of executives from Airbnb and European cities – such as Amsterdam and Berlin – that have a long experience in short-term rentals, hoteliers associations, public organizations and other state authorities to discuss the issue.