By Stathis Kousounis
Greek tourism is breaking records left, right and center this year as arrivals from abroad are much higher than at rival destinations.
All signs in 2014 point to figures above last year’s record of almost 20 million tourists, including cruise visitors, with Civil Aviation Authority data that Kathimerini has seen showing a 21 percent increase in air arrivals in the first four months of the year.
Total arrivals from abroad at the country’s airports amounted to 1.81 million in the January-April period, compared with almost 1.5 million during the same period of 2013. Notably, the largest share of this rise was at Athens International Airport.
The arrivals figure for all Greek airports last month was even more impressive, as the number of tourists visiting the country posted a 33.9 percent rise compared with April 2013.
Particularly encouraging is the fact that domestic air traffic is also showing signs of recovery, with domestic flight arrivals in the first four months of 2014 rising by 9.7 percent year-on-year to reach 1.42 million. Domestic arrivals increased by 29.8 percent in April alone.
The gradual restoration of Greece’s image as a destination in foreign markets has been one of the main reasons for tourism’s return to positive territory. The negative reports that dominated the international media in 2012 have been replaced by favorable articles about Greek tourism since last summer. The remarkable increase in available air seats to Greece has also had a positive contribution.
Other reasons that have helped Greek tourism’s spectacular rebound are the maintenance of hotel rates at competitive levels – based on contracts signed last year with foreign tour operators – and international groups’ rekindled interest in tourism investments and cooperation agreements in Greece.
Bookings from virtually all of the main markets are showing a significant increase, with the only concern being Russia.
There had been a strong rise in Russian arrivals during the first few months of the year, but since then there has been a marked slowdown.