ATHENS – Tourism, the saving grace for Greece’s beleaguered economy, will this year easily bust the 2017 record with the country on a roll of fast-increasing numbers of visitors who are spending enough to bring a boom.
Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura said on the sidelines of the World Travel Market exhibition in London that this year’s number of visitors is expected to surpass 33 million, a jump of some nine million in only four years with Greece benefiting from celebrities flocking to the country in the summer and big spenders dropping thousands of euros a night at nightclubs on the island of Mykonos and the island of Santorini so popular that cruise ship visits are being regulated.
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Kountoura said that tourism revenues are expected to go up by 2 billion euros ($2.29 billion) to some 16.6 billion euros ($18.98 billion,) the biggest revenue driver in the annual Gross Domestic Product of 175.19 billion euros ($200.3 billion).
Athens also picking up numbers due to a new vibe as having hip neighborhoods for the young, and with more cruise ship arrivals.
The figures are backed by the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), which affirmed that Greek tourism was riding on a wave of keen interest as demonstrated by the increase in the number of arrivals to the country, stronger revenue, and growing investor interest in the sector.
Local tourism officials said the most popular islands are booming almost beyond the ability to handle the numbers, especially on Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Paros, Corfu, Zakynthos and Santorini which were fully booked while even less popular destinations were 85-95 percent full.
Greece is awash in tourists who weren’t scared off by a surge in tax hikes, including extra fees for overnight stays imposed by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.