Tourism in Greece is at crucial juncture

Greek tourism is hoping for another increase in the number of visitors this year in what industry sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini will be a defining moment for Greece’s key revenue generator. Some 5 percent more tourists visited Greece last year in a rise that is mainly attributed to the success of the Olympic Games. But hotel owners and restaurateurs around the country are hoping that they will see a further increase this year and that last year’s rise was not just a one-off. The tourism industry accounts for 18 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs more than 700,000 people. Some 13.5 million visitors spend around 11 billion euros each year. But the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) recently said that Greece is only using 15 percent of its tourism potential. Experts estimate that there will be an increase in the number of tourists visiting Greece for the second year in a row. This comes after successive decreases in visitor numbers from 2001-2004. Officials on islands in the northern Aegean told Sunday’s Kathimerini that their area has not benefited from the rise in tourism. Arrivals on islands such as Lesvos, Chios and Samos actually fell last year and are expected to be down again this year. Locals complain about a lack of promotion and the need to improve facilities on the islands. «We are making a serious effort to expand the airport… so that large airplanes can land here,» Chios Mayor Markos Mennis told Kathimerini. Mennis said that 15 million euros is being spent on improving the harbor so that high-speed vessels from Lavrion can dock at the island. He said the journey would take just two-and-a-half hours.