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August 2 expected to be Greek tourismís D-day

By Stathis Kousounis

Greece is anticipating travel receipts as high as 6 billion euros over the next two months thanks to the increased tourism activity observed this summer. This means that in August and September the country expects to collect just under 50 percent of the total sum of tourism revenues expected for the entire year.

According to the latest estimates by the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE), travel receipts in Greece in 2014 will exceed 13 billion euros for the first time ever.

This sum would have been even bigger had it not been for factors affecting outgoing tourism from Russia, such as the decline of the ruble against the euro, the conflict in Ukraine, the reduction of Russian interest in traveling abroad following sanctions imposed by the European Union and the resulting expansion of domestic tourism in Russia.

SETE, therefore, expects that the number of Russian visitors to Greece this year will range around 1.1 million, against 1.35 million in 2013. There will also be smaller revenues from the Russian market this season as Greek hoteliers and travel agents have implemented discounts of up to 20 percent in a bid to bolster demand.

Losses are also anticipated from Ukraine, while a drop is expected in incoming traffic from Israel owing to the reduction of international flights to and from the country on account of the conflict in the area, which has reduced the options of Israelis wishing to travel abroad.

On the other hand, the signs are exceptionally positive from traditional markets for the Greek destination, with annual growth rates reaching double percentage digits. SETE forecasts the arrival of up to 2.8 million German tourists this year, along with 2.2 million Britons and 1.1 million French.

This Saturday, August 2, will be the peak of the Greek tourism season. SETE figures based on available air seats show that as many as 180,000 foreign tourists may be arriving on that day alone for their Greek vacation.

The World Travel Awards ceremony are also scheduled to take place in Athens on the same day. That Athens is hosting this event for a top travel institution on a global scale constitutes an additional reason for the international projection of the Greek destination and of the capital in particular. It also bolsters the prestige of Greek tourism on an international level.

Given that the situation for this season is more or less fixed, tourism entrepreneurs are already looking to 2015. One of the key elements to keeping up the momentum of this year lies in maintaining the particularly positive image of the Greek destination abroad. SETE, however, has its reservations about how well the Russian market will recover next year.

Crucially, there is a strong interest being shown by German and other foreign airlines in scheduling new flights to Greece. For example, Tuifly is already planning eight new services to Greek destinations from Germany and Austria in 2015, while Lufthansa is exploring the option of scheduling direct flights from Germany to Iraklio in Crete and rescheduling flights to Thessaloniki.

Another positive development has been that due to the pressure by the Santorini Hoteliers Association, some foreign tour operators have opened their booking systems for hotels at this popular Aegean island earlier, in order to be in a position to satisfy demand for holiday packages in 2015 from this summer.

ekathimerini.com , Monday Jul 28, 2014 (19:36)  
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