Tourism sector upbeat

Foreign tourist arrivals to Greece rose 6.33 percent in the first half, suggesting a bumper year for the country’s tourism-dependent economy, the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) said yesterday. With its whitewashed villages and sunny Aegean islands, Greece relies heavily on summer tourism to drive its economy and create jobs. Tourism accounts for an estimated 16 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and roughly one in five jobs. In the last two years, Greece has boasted strong growth in tourist arrivals, its image lifted by the successful staging of the 2004 Olympics. It is also seen as a destination relatively safe from the threat of international terrorism. According to SETE, the increase in arrivals to date has outpaced both the growth in rival Mediterranean countries and worldwide tourism this year. «The change in the period from January to June 2006, relative to the same period in 2005, shows a 6.33 percent increase,» SETE said in a statement. By contrast, in the first four months of this year, tourist arrivals worldwide grew at a 4.5 percent rate, SETE said. In neighboring Mediterranean countries arrivals fell. In the first five months of the year, arrivals were down 10.52 percent in Turkey, 2.46 percent in Cyprus, and 0.36 percent in Croatia. In Spain, however, tourist arrivals rose 6.11 percent. «The data show that Greece and Spain are benefiting from the reduced traffic to other countries,» SETE said. SETE data are based on foreign arrivals at 12 major airports around the country which combined account for more than 90 percent of foreign arrivals by air. More than three-quarters of foreign tourists arrive in Greece by air. (Reuters)