Outgoing Christmas tourism grows 20 pct

The booking rate for Greeks taking their holidays abroad as well as at domestic destinations is reminiscent of the time before the start of the financial crisis.

The president of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourism Agents (HATTA), Lyssandros Tsilidis, said that bookings by Greeks for European destinations in the period from Christmas to the Epiphany have risen by about 20 percent from the same time a year earlier. This is the biggest outgoing tourism flow in the last five years, he added.

The majority of bookings for package holidays (charter flights, accommodation for individuals or groups of people) through travel agents were for popular destinations such as London, Paris, Istanbul, Rome, Vienna, Berlin and Prague. Trips to Rovaniemi have seen reduced interest this year. Travel agencies also did not have to resort to partnering with colleagues in order to merge their holiday packages with as much frequency as in other years, indicating brisker business.

Tsilidis added that there was considerable interest in road trips – which are more cost-effective – to destinations such Bulgaria, Austria etc. Demand for long-haul trips such as to the USA, Canada, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Dubai remained stable, as these trips tend to attract high-income travelers.

According to the head of HATTA, the average cost per person for European destinations through travel agency packages (including air tickets, accommodation and guided tours) reached 350 euros this festive season. For packages to destinations further away prices have a broader range, given that they are addressed to people who can afford more expensive holidays. Tsilidis explained that they may start from 800 euros per person and reach 8,000 euros or even higher.

He added that the prices of holiday packages have remained at virtually the same levels as a year earlier, assisted by the decline in fuel prices. Airlines have not increased their ticket prices for last-minute bookings, while the drop in fuel rates also allowed travel agents who organize road trips to retain prices at low levels or even reduce them further for last-minute customers.

There has also been an impressive 40 percent increase in bookings for domestic destinations, Tsilidis noted. Regarding the boost in domestic tourism, the HATTA head said that a considerable part is played by the drop in fuel costs, both for people traveling to their destinations by coach or using their own vehicles.

Greeks, he noted, have once again chosen the traditionally popular destinations of Zagorohoria, Pilio, Karpenisi, Arachova, Nafplio, Delfi, Kaimakchalan, Nymfaio etc. Tsilidis did point out, however, that accommodation units in winter destinations have limited bed capacity and are therefore easy to fill up, especially during the festive season when demand spikes.

Still, there was a clear pattern of increase in domestic tourism seen throughout last year, as Civil Aviation Authority data for the January-November 2014 period showed a 21.4 percent annual growth in domestic flight arrivals at the country’s airports to reach a total of over 5.6 million, compared to 4.6 million in the first 11 months of 2013. November alone witnessed a 37.9 percent increase in domestic arrivals on an annual basis.