April 23 (Bloomberg) -- The number of international visits to Greece fell 5.5 percent last year, as political turmoil during elections in June and the economic crisis in Europe affected the country’s tourism industry.
A total of 15.5 million non-resident visitors arrived in Greece in 2012, according to a statement from the Athens-based Hellenic Statistical Authority. European visitors, 89.3 percent of the total, also dropped 5.5 percent to 13.9 million from 14.7 million last year.
Greece, now in its sixth year of a recession amplified by austerity measures linked to two bailouts from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, marked a record unemployment rate of 27.2 percent in January. The country’s labor market is not expected to improve “until the second quarter of this year, when tourism activity is expected to provide more support,” Nicholas Magginas, an economist at National Bank of Greece SA in Athens, said April 11.
Arrivals from Germany, which accounted for 13.6 percent of the total, dropped almost 6 percent, while visitors from the U.K., 12.4 percent of the total, rose 9.3 percent, data from the statistics service showed. The figures are based on a sample taken at border entry points by the Bank of Greece.
The government expects tourism to offset any “minor” impact on the economy from the crisis in Cyprus, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said at a conference in Athens on April 15.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on state-run NET television the same day that he expects “record tourism receipts” this year.
Tourism, Greece’s biggest industry, accounted for almost 16 percent of gross domestic product and one in five jobs in 2011, according to the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council.
The country’s economy is expected to contract 4.2 percent this year, according to IMF forecasts. Unemployment is expected at 27 percent in 2013 and 26 percent in 2014, the Fund said.
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