The first signs regarding Greece’s foreign visitor numbers this year are not positive, suggesting that those who have been predicting zero growth at best from last year could turn out to be right. A retreat from 2018’s record 33 million tourists and 16 billion euros in tourism revenues appears likely.
Early though it may be too early to deduce any safe conclusions about the course of tourism in 2019, provisional data on airline seat planning for flights to Greece for the rest of the year showed a decline last month compared to January 2018, when there had been an increase from January 2017. This means that the carriers flying tourists to Greece are adjusting to demand and reducing their seat availability from last year. Sources that have monitored these figures for years tell Kathimerini that this is the first time in several years that there has been a decline in seat planning instead of an increase.
This is despite the fact that passenger traffic in January continued to rise at Greece’s airports at a rate of about 10 percent year-on-year. Sources attribute this increase to Greece’s growing popularity as a city break destination, to the normal operation of Thessaloniki’s Makedonia Airport (whose services a year ago were restricted due to works), and to the general momentum of Greek tourism over the last few years.
In the 14 regional airports (including Makedonia) that Fraport Greece operates, total traffic – domestic and international – increased by 12.3 percent year-on-year last month, while Athens International Airport saw an 8.5 percent advance.
The lower number of seats available this year means that the situation will change this summer: “In a sense this is expected after the record highs in arrivals and the drop in consumer confidence in the main markets the country draws its visitors from, such as Germany and Britain,” a source with access to airline seat planning tells Kathimerini.
Of course in a sector such as tourism that depends on dozens, if not hundreds, of parameters in the international markets where tourists visit from, one can hardly take it for granted that this year will be one of negative tourism results. Yet the recovery of some rival markets in the region (Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia) could also have a detrimental impact, as would the economic slowdown in Europe and the Brexit uncertainties.