ECONOMY

Time of uncertainty for tourism

Visitor arrivals are expected to drop by between 5 and 13 percent this season, according to a semi-annual report prepared by research group Academy of Tourism Research and Studies (ATEM). A 13 percent drop in arrivals means that 13.1 million tourists will visit Greece this year while a 5.4 percent reduction translates into 14.2 million people reaching the country’s shores. ATEM’s figures are based on macroeconomic forecasts prepared by the European Commission and oil forecasts from the US Energy Information Administration. ATEM’s report paints a grimmer picture than its previous six-month forecast in January, which anticipated a 8.1 percent drop in visitor numbers versus an average 10 percent drop in the current report. January’s estimates were made at a time when many were expecting a sharp decline in tourism arrivals, exceeding 15 percent, in what would have been one of the sector’s worst performances. Initial arrivals figures from the country’s airports show that in the first five months of the year there was a reduction of some 9 percent in visitor numbers. Figures from the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) show that 2.36 million people arrived at the country’s main airports between January and May versus 2.59 million last year, resulting in an annual drop of 8.85 percent. The ATEM report also points out that the model used to calculate arrivals figures is unable to forecast tourism receipts and the average duration of each visitor’s stay. Government projections on the course of the sector this year are more optimistic. Tourism Minister Costas Markopoulos has forecast that the drop in tourism will not reach double-digit figures this year. Tourism accounts for about 18 percent of Greece’s economy and is seen as being a crucial factor in determining the course of the country’s economic performance this year.