‘Tourism is our lifejacket’: Greece gets record number of visitors

The Guardian — Greece, more than any other Mediterranean country, has reaped the benefits of tour operators pulling out of Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia, destinations now considered a security risk following terrorist attacks.

“We are doing better than our neighbours,” the country’s new tourism chief, Yiannis Retsos, told the Guardian. “Turkey in particular has been badly hurt. But sooner or later those markets will rebound which is why Greece needs to extend the season, exploit its amazing landscape and diversify beyond the traditional sun and sea product.”

In April German company Fraport took over the operation of 14 regional airports across Greece at the behest of the EU and IMF, the bodies behind the three emergency bailouts Athens has received since 2010. The  40-year lease will also mean the state-owned German firm pouring in more than of €1bn to the airports, with more than €400m being invested over the next four years. “As Greek airports are upgraded through the life of the project we expect to see a significant increase in flights to the underserved regions of Greece and that will provide a basis for sustained long-term growth,” says Alec Mally, an economics analyst at Foresight, a strategic communications company in Athens.

“More efficient connections between the Greek islands and provinces, and regions in Germany and northern Europe, will not only support tourism but boost business and trade ties.”

In May, Athens’ newly revamped international airport also opened its doors, announcing that upgraded facilities meant it could accept 26m passengers, up from 20m last year.

Many of the additional arrivals will come from new international markets in India, Israel and China – a major investor in Greece from which Athens hopes to attract about 600,000 holidaymakers annually.

More Russian tourists are also visiting the Greek islands this year. The three most popular Greek islands for Russians this season are Crete, Rhodes and Corfu, for their hotels and accommodations which offer all-inclusive services.