ECONOMY

Tourism in Greece is not low-income

Official data from local and international tourism organizations shows that Greece is far from being a low-cost tourism destination, despite the stereotype that Greece does not attract high-income tourists. Reports by the World Economic Forum, the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the World Travel and Tourism Council, and the Bank of Greece all converge to an average annual tourism revenue of $1,200 per capita in this country. This places Greece fifth among the top countries in global tourism. For 2005, on the basis of average spending by visitors, Greece ranks 10th in the world with $1,073 per tourist, ahead of its direct competitors. All this puts an end to the myth of the cheap Greek tourism product. In a separate report by the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE), Greece is placed 24th in terms of travel and tourism competitiveness, far higher than the country’s position in the overall economic competitiveness list (47th). The contribution of tourism to employment continues to be very significant, as for every position of full employment in tourism almost one more is created in the tourism economy in general. Total employment in the tourism economy has reached 840,000 jobs, or 19 percent of all people employed. An analysis of available data shows that there is one new tourism job created for every 30 tourist arrivals, which translates into 1.9 new jobs in the economy as a whole. Last year, an estimated 32,000 new jobs were created in tourism, a figure which represents 6.8 percent of all jobless people in 2005. Last year was the second in a row in which the key figures of the tourism economy rose, which is very important for a mature tourism market such as Greece. With respect to arrivals, after a 5.6 percent annual rise in 2005, there was a further increase of 7.5 percent in 2006, leading to a new record of 13.7 million foreign tourist arrivals. Meanwhile, Bank of Greece data shows that revenue last year totalled -11.4 billion, a rise of 5 percent compared to 2005, when it had also posted a 4.7 percent annual increase. Perhaps most importantly, these positive figures for tourism in 2006 were achieved despite the severe oil crisis that pushed up the price of oil from $55 per barrel (January 2006) to more than $75 per barrel (August 2006), once again confirming the resilience of the tourism economy in general. The WTO expects a 4 percent rise in arrivals internationally in 2007, but just 3 percent in Europe. For Greece to improve its ranking, it will have to at least exceed the projected European average growth in tourism this year.