ECONOMY

Rise in incoming flights points to another bumper year for tourism

The increase in international flights to Greece is leading local tourism to another record season, as the industry’s first-quarter data, presented on Wednesday, point to one more year of double-digit growth.

International arrivals at the country’s main airports posted a 28.8 percent annual increase in the period from January to March, coming to 810,750, according to the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE) and the Civil Aviation Authority. Growth amounted to 28.7 percent in January, 24.2 percent in February and 32.2 percent last month.

The increase is to a large extent due to the 29.5 percent rise in arrivals at Athens International Airport, while Thessaloniki posted a 22.3 percent annual increase. The numbers elsewhere in Greece were too low to draw any safe conclusions, but it is particularly positive that the trend of extending the tourism season is continuing at several airports around the country.

Rhodes has shown particular progress in developing niche tourism this spring, and is gearing up to receive 8,000 members of the Austrian pensioners’ association in the next five weeks.

Commenting on the sector’s impressive start to the year, SETE stated that the target of 25 million arrivals this year is quite attainable. It added that “Greek tourism, with the strength and efforts of more than 50,000 small and medium-sized enterprises and 70,000 workers, is for another year ready to contribute toward bolstering the economy and society, both in the capital and around the country, as well as reducing unemployment.”

Civil Aviation Authority data showed that the total number of flights to Greek airports last month came in at 19,922, posting an 18.2 percent increase from March 2014. This derived from a 16.1 percent rise in domestic flights and 21.4 percent growth in international arrivals. Charter flights, especially, expanded by 37.1 percent to reach up to 299.

The number of passengers exceeded 1.8 million last month, growing 28.2 percent from last year. In the first quarter of the year, total arrivals at Greek airports numbered 4.9 million. Dimitris Koukis, the authority’s director, estimated that last year’s record of 45 million passengers will be beaten this year.