Greek tourism growth said to hinge on bailout review, refugee crisis

Greek tourism growth said to hinge on bailout review, refugee crisis

Greek tourism revenues are seen rising again in 2016 but revenue growth hinges on a swift conclusion of the country's bailout review and an efficient handling of refugee flows, the country's main tourism association said on Wednesday.

The head of tourism association SETE, Andreas Andreadis, said that direct tourism receipts were expected to grow 5.6 percent to 15 billion euros on the back of 25 million visitors and 2.5 million cruise ship arrivals.

But he warned "the targets depend on the successful conclusion of the bailout review and managing the refugee flows."

"The key word is stability," Andreadis told Reuters.

Greece relies on its monuments and sandy beaches for an economic recovery. The sector is the crisis-hit country's main cash earner, accounting for about 17 percent of economic output and employing one in five people.

Andreadis called for the conclusion of the review by the end of April, before the Greek Orthodox Easter, a key tourism season. Athens hopes the review will open the way for talks on debt relief, which will send a positive signal to markets.

European Union and International Monetary Fund inspectors, who started assessing Greece's progress in January but cut the process short last month, were expected to relaunch talks with the government in Athens on Wednesday.

Greece, struggling to meet the terms of its international bailout which helps it stay afloat, is also the main gateway into the EU for thousands of refugees, mainly from Syria and other war-torn countries.

More than a million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond have entered the EU since early 2015, most making the perilous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, which has set up hotspots on five Aegean islands.

Andreadis said that some regions were expected to remain affected by the refugee crisis. "The increase will not be even, across the board," he said adding that a European Union summit on March 17-18 was crucial. [Reuters]

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