SOCIETY

International visitors not put off by country’s economic woes

international-visitors-not-put-off-by-country-s-economic-woes

Greece often found itself in the global spotlight last year, with its two elections, a referendum, the banks closing, the capital controls and countless hours of negotiations in Brussels. “Any publicity is good publicity,” so they say. In an interview with Kathimerini’s K magazine, Alternate Minister for Tourism Elena Kountoura said a few weeks ago that 26 million visitors were expected to have visited Greece by the end of 2015, generating revenues of nearly 14.5 billion euros, i.e. an additional 4 million arrivals and 1 billion euros in revenue compared to 2014.

Especially in the summer, in the midst of some very difficult months for the country, the positive reports kept on coming from some of the world’s major travel publications, such as the Guardian’s Travel pages, which carried a large feature focused on Greece, and Conde Nast Traveler, where journalist Mark Ellwood wrote, “When tourist-dependent destinations suffer such setbacks, the best way we can help isn’t hand-wringing or charity donations – it’s to book a trip there that pours money into the economy.”

And that’s what seems to have happened. We saw tourists from around the world coming to enjoy the weather in Athens in November (3,045,801 international visitors landed at Eleftherios Venizelos Airport and stayed in the capital between January and September 2015, according to airport data), while the Athens-Attica Hotel Association saw the first eight months of this year marked with better occupancy in their member hotels compared to 2014 (corresponding with other European city destinations), but without the corresponding revenues given the much lower prices.

In the period between January and November, 47.2 million visitors arrived nationwide compared to the same period of 2014, according to the Civil Aviation Authority, representing a 10.2 percent year-on-year increase. Arrivals at Eleftherios Venizelos alone surpassed 17 million in 2015. Total passenger traffic last year matched that of the pre-crisis period.

An increase in cruises, both to Piraeus and other Greek ports, the strengthening of thematic tourism – be it outdoor activities or food and wine – and new infrastructure on the mainland and islands all seem to have borne strong results for the tourism market.

And that’s not all. It’s not only the sun, sea, food, good prices and warm smiles that are bringing more visitors to the country. Equally as coveted these days is the sense of security, which constitutes one of our greatest strengths. “In Greece I feel extremely safe,” said American travel blogger Marissa Tejada, who now lives and works in Athens and paints a positive picture of the country in the international press.