ECONOMY

Record number of US visitors but tour operators complain of hikes

record-number-of-us-visitors-but-tour-operators-complain-of-hikes

Tourism arrivals from the US are set for an all-time record this year and are estimated to reach at least 800,000. In the first five months of the year, US visitors grew by 37.1 percent on an annual basis to reach 170,000, while their expenditure rose by 15.1 percent to exceed 156 million euros, according to Bank of Greece figures.

Even if the growth rates of these two main figures are halved for the remainder of the year, arrivals will amount to 800,000 and tourism revenues from the US visitors alone will come to 700 million euros.

The head of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Tourism, Giorgos Trivizas says that as things stand the growth in arrivals from the US will range between 15 and 20 percent compared with 2014. He adds that the recent peak of the economic crisis in Greece had only a small impact on US tourist traffic to this country. Trivizas explains that this is due to the mild attitude of the US media toward the crisis in Greece, which prevented the the average US traveler from getting a negative impression of the country.

This year the focus of US tourists’ attention is on Athens, along with the usual destinations of Santorini, Myconos, Crete and Rhodes. Trivizas comments that these are destinations that are mostly known to the Americans through cruise itineraries.

The rise of the US dollar against the euro during last winter has also bolstered interest in Greece as it has rendered trips to the eurozone cheaper for visitors from across the Atlantic.

The problems created by the capital controls are the biggest concern of Greek travel agencies, which are having trouble forwarding the commissions from bookings to US tour operators.

Trivizas has also received complaints from tour operators in the US regarding the increase in value-added tax on food service and accommodation. He explains that many tour operators have printed their 2016 brochures on Greece and other destinations since the start of the year based on the pricing policy agreed before the VAT hikes. It would therefore be difficult for them to adjust the charges imposed on their customers and cannot absorb the extra cost themselves.