BUSINESS

Greece ranks among global leaders in tourism growth

By Stathis Kousounis

Tourism in Greece has done particularly well in 2014, having grown 16.7 percent year-on-year, while the head of the World Tourism Organization stressed on Wednesday the added value this growth can generate in the economy and praised the government’s efforts at maintaining stability in the country and supporting progress in the sector.

World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) data seen by Kathimerini compare tourism arrival figures in 80 countries around the world this year up to June or July. They show Greece as having the second-highest growth rate in Europe, behind Latvia’s 18.9 percent.

In the first half of the year Greece put the average growth rate in Europe (4.5 percent) to shame, and with the incorporation of data from the second half – traditionally the strongest for the country – it’s set to rise further in the charts.

Bank of Greece data also showed yesterday that arrivals in Greece soared 22.1 percent in the first eight months of the year to reach 15.34 million, while August enjoyed 25 percent growth, reaching 4.85 million. Travel revenues climbed 11.1 percent in the year to end-August, coming to 9.73 billion euros.

United Nations World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Taleb D. Rifai met on Wednesday in Athens with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Tourism Development Minister Olga Kefaloyianni, with the PM saying that “tourism offers cash immediately with a very high multiplying effect,” to which Rifai added that “the money goes directly to the people.”

The UNWTO chief explained that tourism is related to 53 categories of services: “Taxi drivers, bakers, store owners, souvenir sellers, everyone has something to contribute,” said Rifai. He went on to praise the government’s efforts to support the sector, via facilitating visa issuing, reducing value-added tax on hotels etc, and stressed the importance of stability and maintenance of the current policies as a means of safeguarding the role that tourism will continue to play in the country’s growth and job creation.

Kefaloyianni said that the tourism markets and international tourism bodies are showing confidence in Greece and supporting its tourism growth, adding that “after two-and-half years of hard work, Greece ranks close to the top of the global tourism market.”

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