Dip in tourist numbers confirmed

As the ongoing financial crisis keeps hundreds of thousands of potential visitors to Greece at home, data released yesterday showed that passenger arrivals in the first seven months of the year fell around 8 percent, while the decline in money spent by visitors is expected to be considerably higher. Data from the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) showed that the reduction in visitors arriving at the country’s main airports fell 8 percent year-on-year between January and July, versus a 9.6 percent drop in the first six months of the year. «The slight difference does not give cause for celebrations and rejoicing since it corresponds to only one side of the tourist sector,» SETE said in a statement. A breakdown of the figures, which measures arrivals at Greece’s 13 largest airports, shows that Cephalonia is having a particularly bad year, with total visitor numbers falling 23 percent to 80,826 for the seven-month period. Santorini has so far seen 12.6 percent fewer people visit its shores while the decrease on Samos has hit 14 percent. Figures for Athens show a 7 percent drop in visitor numbers to 1.8 million as the capital still feels the pinch from the December riots, according to some industry sources. Looking toward figures on an annual basis, Tourism Minister Costas Markopoulos said earlier this week he expects the drop in visitor arrivals in the current year to be between «a single- and double-digit figure.» The performance of the tourism sector will play a key role in determining the shape of the economy, since it accounts for about one-fifth of Greece’s annual economic output and one in five jobs. Figures from the Bank of Greece released recently show that in the first five months of the year the money spent by tourists in Greece fell 19 percent to 1.7 billion euros, in a trend likely to continue in coming months as special offers continue during the high season – July, August, September – in a bid to entice visitors.