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As Helena Smith at The Guardian reported this week, tourism has singlehandedly kept Greece afloat as it continues to battle an unprecedented economic crisis:
Tourism has become the mainstay of an economy not only locked in a perpetual fiscal vice – the price of being bailed out to the tune of more than €300bn – but languishing in the longest running recession since the second world war.
Figures released by Greece’s tourism confederation, SETE, reveal the extent to which the sector is protecting Europe’s weakest economy. With a 6.5% increase in tourist arrivals at major airports between January and August – the equivalent of about 750,000 holidaymakers – the industry accounted for eight out of 10 new jobs.
After a record-setting 2015, tourism numbers have been inconsistent this year. Slightly weaker numbers in the first half of the year (July down about 2%) were offset by a very strong August, and September is set to also give the Greek economy a much-needed shot in the arm:
More than 3 billion euros are expected to flow into the Greek economy over the September-October period thanks to an upturn in tourism numbers at the country’s popular destinations. The rise in last-minute bookings observed since July is generating expectations for an improvement in the course of tourism revenues after a negative first half of the year compared with 2015.
The Greek tourism industry is right to focus on autumn travel to Greece. The season is spectacular, as you can see from this video from DiscoverGreece.com:
Ticket prices are obviously much lower than those at the height of summer, making autumn travel a much more affordable option for many. However, as Smith pointed out in her Guardian article, the Greek government treads a thin line with increased VAT taxes on the tourism sector (“from 6.5% to 13% on accommodation costs and from 13% to 24% on food and beverages”).
Still, the fact that tourism numbers continue to hold strong in the face of Greece’s economic crisis and the burden in bears shouldering Europe’s refugee crisis bodes well for the future of Greece. Extending the travel season through the fall with an aggressive marketing campaign can continue to strengthen the tourism sector, which already makes up over 20% of Greece’s economy.
“The more one travels in Greece, the more there is to discover and experience,” Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura has said. That is certainly true, and traveling to Greece at different times of the year provides a much different picture of Greece each time — each season a stunning reminder that despite its setbacks, Greece remains one of the most coveted travel spots in the entire world.
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