US: Tourism’s huge challenge

US: Tourism’s huge challenge

The US market is the biggest challenge for Greek tourism this summer, following the European Commission’s nod to allow vaccinated Americans to visit the European Union.

Although last week the US State Department issued a travel advisory against visiting Greece (along with another 130 countries) for now, due to the pandemic picture, the major US carriers have scheduled the highest number of direct flights to Athens in many years.

Notably this August there will be at least seven direct services between the US and Athens International Airport; if one also counts the connection flights to Athens and the country’s regional airports via major European cities, an estimated 40,000 seats will be available per week for trips from the US to Greece.

United Airlines is launching a daily service between New York (Newark) and Athens on June 3, and another between Washington and Athens from July 1. Delta is starting even earlier, flying from New York (JFK) to Athens every day as of May 28. American Airlines also starts off on June 3 with a daily New York (JFK)-Athens service, followed by Chicago-to-Athens daily flights from June 4, and then Philadelphia-Athens daily flights from August 17. Dubai-owned Emirates will start offering daily New York (Newark)-Athens flights from June 1.

Tickets for all of the above flights are already available on the airlines’ booking systems. Whether all this capacity translates into bookings will only emerge by late May, Athens International Airport sources tell Kathimerini.

The Americans are among the tourists with the highest per capita spending, with the Bank of Greece recording travel receipts of 1.18 billion euros from 1.17 million US visitors in 2019. Their average spending rate of €1,008 was 78.8% above the overall average rate of €564 per visitor.

Last year receipts and arrivals from the US fell 95%, so the big challenge for Greece now is to contain its Covid-19 cases in the next two to four weeks and have the travel advisory lifted so as to boost demand.

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