US tourist arrivals to Greece hit a record number last year, according to data provided by the Athens International Airport (AIA), collated in a quantitative and qualitative survey on the profile of American tourists. Arrivals from the US for any reason recorded an increase of 34 percent compared to 2006, while the number of US vacationers arriving at Athens Airport rose by 13.5 percent. The US market – along with those of Germany, Britain and Italy – is among the most profitable for Greece’s tourism sector, in terms of either number of arrivals or foreign exchange income. The impressive rise in tourist numbers from the US started in 2005 and continued for the next two years. Unlike other traditional tourism markets which were not greatly influenced by the Olympics, the Athens 2004 Games made a major contribution to the increase in the number of arrivals from the US. Safety concerns In addition to the overall promotion of Greece during the 2004 Games, safety concerns were also allayed. Feelings of security are taken into serious consideration primarily by US visitors when choosing a holiday destination. In addition, an important contribution to rising arrivals has been the considerable funds spent on advertising Greece as a tourist destination in the US market, as well as the country’s upgraded participation in international fairs and exhibitions. As for 2008, concerns about tourism are focused on the rising appreciation of the euro against the US dollar. This, naturally, is an issue faced by all European destinations, as it intensifies competition amid efforts to claim larger shares from the US tourism market. In contrast, Greece’s closest competitor, Turkey, has no reason to worry about currency considerations. Security seems to be the greatest problem US visitors face in that country. However, such a development necessitates the launch of an intensive advertising campaign in the US also this year in order to maintain the rising numbers of US visitors to Greece. Arrivals of US visitors to Greece in 2006 recorded an increase of approximately 400 percent compared to 2005. In 2007, 416,381 arrivals via direct flights were recorded from the US, against 319,146 one year previously. The survey carried out by AIA on the US market shows that 435,490 Americans who arrived at Athens Airport in 2007 stated they were coming to Greece for a vacation, compared to 383,890 in 2006. AIA communication and marketing director Giorgos Karamanos says an increase in air transport capacity – with new airlines connecting Athens with US cities – has helped the continuing rise in US arrivals. Last summer, 79 percent of US visitors said they had come to Greece for a vacation (76 percent in 2006), 11 percent said they came to visit relatives and friends (13 percent in 2006) and 10 percent reported that they were on a business trip (11 percent in 2006). Their stay in Greece increased by one day, to 16, of which six were spent in Athens. Most US visitors held a college degree, while the average amount spent by Americans in Greece was much higher than any other foreign visitor group. Their numbers were evenly split between men and women. The vast majority of tourists from the US stated as their place of residence New York, followed by Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington and Philadelphia.