Most American tourists travel to Athens to visit the Acropolis, while many Britons and Germans go straight to the islands for their holidays, Greek Minister of Culture and Tourism Pavlos Geroulanos told American cable news channel CNBC this week.
Geroulanos, who managed to hold on to his post in a cabinet reshuffle last week, noted that while greatly publicized demonstrations in Athens kept some German and British tourists from visiting Greece last year, the gap was closed thanks to big increases in arrivals from countries such as Turkey, Russia and Israel.
Geroulanos noted that the tourist industry is the country?s largest sector and accounts for one-fifth of the country?s GDP. Every year, some 16 million people visit Greece.
Things are looking up this summer season, with British and German tourists coming back to Greece and the number of Russian visitors possibly doubling from last year. The number of tourists visiting Athens and Thessaloniki is on the rise, as is the case in the rest of the country.
?Demonstrations did affect tourism last year,? Geroulanos said. ?This year, only one day of rioting received broad international publicity. People understand that what is going on in Greece is taking place within four blocks [in the capital] and that the country?s beauty and wealth are much more than this. So they come to visit the country and places which are extremely welcoming for tourists.?
Asked about whether some of the current austerity measures are aimed at increasing the number of visitors, Geroulanos noted that measures taken in the tourist industry are not tied to the austerity measures but regard relaxing investment laws and limitations, such as encouraging more cruise liners to use the port of Piraeus as their departure point.