ECONOMY

One record after another falls as tourist arrivals climb high

Foreign tourist arrivals in Greece broke an all-time record last year, although this year has a strong chance of setting an even higher one, according to preliminary data. Conservative estimates put the arrivals for this year above 16 million for the first time ever. National Statistics Service (NSS) figures put the number of tourists who came to Greece in 2006 at 15.7 million, while some 1.6 million foreigners came to Greece as economic migrants. From 1995 and for another eight years it was the Greek National Tourism Organization and not the NSS which calculated foreign arrivals, considering them all as tourists, thus misrepresenting the actual performance of Greek tourism. The idea was to hide the major crisis that tourism went through mainly in the 2001-2004 period. In 2006 there was an 8.44 percent increase in tourism arrivals over 2005. Britons, Germans and Italians were the leaders among arrivals from Europe, who rose by 8.1 percent year-on-year. Sweden posted the biggest annual rise (35.5 percent), while the UK had a small decline (3.8 percent) from 2005. A significant increase came from the US, with 17.3 percent more tourists coming to Greece last year than in 2005. Airport traffic focuses on Athens International Airport (23.1 percent), followed by Iraklion, Rhodes and Corfu. The biggest annual increases were recorded by Hania, Thessaloniki and Kos. Charter arrivals registered a 6.3 percent yearly rise. Nearly half of all charter flights came from the UK and Germany. However there was significant growth in charter flights from the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy and Sweden. Separate data from the Athens Hoteliers Association (EXA) show that the Greek capital still has the lowest average revenue per available room compared to 10 rival metropolitan destinations in Europe. Athens remains low even though it improved its ranking with a 4.9 percent rise in hotel occupancy in May from a year earlier and 12.4 percent more revenue per room.