Greece sees strong rebound in summer tourism
Following two years of lockdowns, Greece’s tourism sector is witnessing a robust comeback, pointing to a record year that may surpass pre-pandemic levels.
With a million visitors a week arriving in Greece, some destinations − such as the country’s iconic Cycladic islands where visitor arrivals have topped three million so far this year − have already surpassed pre-pandemic levels. The country’s most emblematic landmark, the Acropolis, welcomed 16,000 tourists a day this summer.
With its whitewashed villages and sunny Mediterranean climate, Greece is one of the world’s top tourism destinations. In the years before the coronavirus pandemic, Greece’s tourism sector, which accounts for roughly one-fifth of GDP, had been growing quickly. In 2019, the year before the pandemic, Greece welcomed a record 33 million visitors and collected a record €18 billion in revenue. Industry experts estimate that this year’s tourism revenues could reach €20 billion.
While two years of pent up demand have contributed to visitor arrivals this year, Greece’s tourism sector is also benefitting from several longer-term structural trends. Over the past few years, Greece’s tourism authorities have been working to extend the country’s peak summer season and turn the country into a year-round destination. This year, for example, international direct flights to Greece began in March, two months earlier than usual, while cruise ship arrivals also started earlier and have now reached 10 month operations.
At the same time, investment activity in Greek hospitality continued unabated over the past two years, reflecting investor confidence in the long-term prospects of Greece’s tourism sector. Since 2019, some 150 new hotels – most in the 4- and 5-star category − have opened their doors around the country. Dozens more are slated for development.
The investment in higher end accommodations, along with other improvements in Greece’s tourism infrastructure, is helping the sector attract more well-heeled visitors. Early data suggest that traveler spending this year is up about 9%, indicating a shift in Greece’s tourism product and bringing it more in line with other Mediterranean destinations.