Foreign visitors down as crisis hits tourism

The number of foreigners visiting Greece fell 9 percent in the first six months of the year, as political and financial turmoil combined with Europe?s economic crisis hurt the country?s tourist industry.

A total of 4.8 million non-resident visitors arrived in Greece in the six months through June, according to an e-mailed statement from the Hellenic Statistical Authority on Tuesday. The number of European visitors, who accounted for 87.8 percent of the total dropped 7.9 percent to 4.2 million.

Passenger traffic at Athens International Airport SA dropped 11.2 percent to 10.2 million in the nine months through September 30, according to a separate statement posted on the airport?s website. International passenger traffic declined 12.7 percent to 6.7 million, while domestic travelers were down 8.4 percent to 3.6 million.

The decline of foreign visitors is due to ?the tarnished image of Athens and Greece abroad, combined with the slow-down in European economies,? the company said. In September, passenger traffic dropped 8.8 percent to 1.3 million.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras?s coalition government is trying to push through a 13.5 billion-euro ($17.6 billion) austerity package to secure financing from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, as the country?s economy stayed in recession for a fifth consecutive year.

Arrivals from Germany, who accounted for 12.8 percent of the total, dropped almost 7 percent, while visitors from the U.K., who accounted for 12.7 percent of the total, increased 16 percent, the Greek statistics service data showed. The figures are based on a sample taken at border entry points by the Bank of Greece. (ETE)

Tourism, Greece?s biggest industry, accounted for almost 16 percent of gross domestic product and one in five jobs in 2011, according to the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council.


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