The number of foreign tourists visiting Greece fell about 8 percent in the first seven months of the year, indicating that the tourism sector may be holding up slightly better to the global crisis than initially expected, the Institute of Tourism Research and Forecasting (ITEP) said yesterday. Nonprofit research group ITEP said a 7.6 percent increase in visitor arrivals to Athens in July partially offset sharp drops in areas such as Cephalonia and Hania, Crete. Rhodes’s performance was «satisfactory» ITEP added, as 2.8 percent fewer tourists visited the island this year, which means 276,840 people in total. «If this trend continues in August, in combination with satisfactory developments on Rhodes, it is possible the drop in foreign tourists visiting Greece in 2009 will not be in the double digits and could be in line with trends in global tourism [a drop of around 8 percent],» ITEP said in a statement. Industry sources had forecast a drop of around 15 percent in the number of tourists visiting Greece this year as consumers in Britain and Germany – two key markets for Greek tourism – have been hit hard by the global crisis. Performances recorded in Greece’s competing markets showed mixed results. In the first six months of the year, 11.5 percent fewer tourists visited Spain while the drop-off in Cyprus and Turkey was 10.8 percent and 0.9 percent respectively, ITEP added.