Arrivals drop, Santorini feels pinch

The number of visitor arrivals in Greece in the first five months of the year fell nearly 9 percent year-on-year under the weight of the financial crisis, which has hit hardest the island of Santorini, data showed yesterday. The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), a group representing more than a dozen tourism associations, including hotels and ferry operators, said 2.36 million people arrived at the country’s largest airports between January and May versus 2.59 million last year, translating into an annual drop of 8.85 percent. SETE’s data measures arrivals through Greece’s 13 largest airports, estimated to account for 74 percent of total incoming tourists. The tourism sector in Santorini looks set for a difficult year, as the number of visitors reaching the popular island fell 42 percent year-on-year to 13,038. The only region in Greece to produce better figures than last year was Rhodes, where 202,896 tourists visited the island, up 1.26 percent compared to last year, according to the SETE data. Tourism accounts for about 18 percent of Greece’s economy and is seen as being a crucial factor in determining whether the economy will avoid tipping into recession this year. Industry officials have said they expect a drop of between 15 to 20 percent in arrival figures this year due to the crisis.