Greece’s tourism sector has witnessed a remarkable resurgence this year, with the number of visitors reaching record levels despite the challenges posed by a severe heatwave and devastating wildfires.
Official statistics released recently indicate that from January to August, the Mediterranean nation welcomed 22.65 million tourists, marking an 18.4% increase from the previous year. This figure surpasses the previous record set in 2019, which saw 21.84 million visitors.
The country’s central bank, the Bank of Greece, highlighted that these numbers for the first eight months exceeded even the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. The tourism sector had suffered a significant downturn in 2020 and 2021 due to travel restrictions imposed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the summer of 2023 posed new challenges. Greece experienced a prolonged heatwave in July, with temperatures soaring to 46 degrees Celsius in the southern regions. This was followed by a series of forest fires that led to the evacuation of tens of thousands, including tourists from popular destinations like Rhodes and Corfu. These fires, exacerbated by dry, windy conditions, resulted in the tragic loss of 26 lives and scorched approximately 150,000 hectares of land.
Despite these adversities, the resilience of Greece’s tourism sector was evident. American tourists, in particular, showed a significant increase in their numbers, registering a 50.3% jump in August compared to the same period in 2022.
The resurgence in American tourists visiting Greece might not just be a coincidence. A significant lure has been the unveiling of several luxury hotels across Greece this year. Marrying Greece’s rich history with state-of-the-art amenities, these hotels offer an unparalleled experience that seems to be resonating with American travelers.
Further supporting this positive trend, a press release highlighted the robust performance of the travel sector. The balance of travel services recorded a surplus of €4,106.8 million in August 2023, with travel receipts increasing by 5.2%. From January to August, the surplus reached €13,045.1 million, a rise of 15.3% in travel receipts. This growth was driven by a 10.4% increase in inbound traveller flows in August and an 18.4% increase from January to August.
Interestingly, while there was a general increase in receipts from both within and outside the EU27, certain countries like Germany and the United States showed a decline in receipts. However, the number of travellers from the United States surged by 50.3% in August, reinforcing the growing interest from American tourists.
Tourism is a vital pillar of Greece’s economy, contributing to nearly a quarter of its GDP. However, as the sector thrives, concerns about “overtourism” and rising prices in certain islands have been raised by critics.
In conclusion, Greece’s tourism sector has shown remarkable resilience and adaptability, bouncing back from the challenges of the pandemic and natural disasters to achieve record-breaking numbers in 2023.