Tourism in Greece, which accounts for about one-sixth of the economy, is set to reach a second consecutive record as European travelers return to the country ravaged by six years of recession.
“Forecasts show 2014 will be another record year,” said Andreas Andreadis, president of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises. As many as 18.5 million tourists will visit Greece this year, compared with 17.9 million in 2013, generating 13 billion euros ($18 billion) in revenue, he said. “Almost all traditional and new markets are showing positive, encouraging signs.”
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has called the country’s tourist industry “the first locomotive that started and began to pull our economy out of a painful six-year recession” that’s seen unemployment reach a record 28 percent. If Greece beats a target of 24 million visitors by 2021 it would add 9 percentage points in GDP while creating 300,000 jobs, Andreadis said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Tourism accounted for 16.4 percent of Greek gross domestic product in 2012, according to World Travel and Tourism Council figures, one of the highest contributions in Europe. About 1 million people will work in the industry by 2021, according to the Greek association, known as SETE.
Long-term tourism targets are based on assumptions of political and macroeconomic improvements in the country, Andreadis said. “Political stability within Greece, and achieving the rest of our national objectives, will hopefully ensure that 2021 targets will be reached and surpassed,” he said. Greece will also need to invest 3.3 billion euros per year, mainly in infrastructure, he said.
Pre-booking figures indicate Greece can expect more tourists from Germany and France this year and a 10 percent rise in visitors from the U.K., according to the most recent figures from SETE. More Germans visit Greece than any other nationality, followed by the U.K., the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France and Russia.
The association is also in talks with the Greek government about public-private industry initiatives, Andreadis said, adding that monuments, museums and other antiquities sites should remain under state protection.