US, British tourists not put off by uncertainty

Holiday bookings from the United States and Britain for this season are pointing toward an increase which has been boosted by the decline of the euro against the US dollar and the British pound. Similarly the rise of the Swiss franc against the euro is creating expectations of an increase in the flow of tourism from Switzerland, too.

More than 3 million tourists travel to Greece from these three markets every year. It therefore appears that the appeal of Greece as a destination for visitors from certain foreign markets is overriding concerns regarding the political uncertainty for now.

Citing figures from US tour operators Globus, Trafalgar and American Express, the Hellenic American Tourism Chamber announced that bookings this month from the US to Greece for 2015 are showing a year-on-year increase of 23 percent.

Data released on Thursday by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) showed Greece among the most popular destinations for Britons making early bookings for this year. ABTA noted that early bookings have been soaring as, depending on the tour operator, growth in January looks set to come in at between 30 and 50 percent.

The Bank of Greece issued on Thursday last year’s nine-month figures on tourism, showing that the forecast for 24 million arrivals from abroad for the whole of 2014 will be achieved. In the January-September 2014 period arrivals reached 20.7 million, 20 percent up from a year earlier, while arrivals in the 12 months of 2013 had amounted to 20.1 million. The comparison of the first nine months of 2014 with those in 2012 is even more staggering, as there was an increase of 6 million arrivals last year.

The central bank also announced that tourism receipts in the first nine months of last year amounted to more than 12 billion euros, posting a 10.9 percent annual increase. The biggest rise in revenues as well as arrivals was from the US and French markets.

The jump in new airlines traveling to Greek airports in 2014 helped fuel the growth in arrivals, which reached record levels according to data released on Thursday by the Civil Aviation Authority. The country’s airports served 45 million passengers last year, up by 17 percent from 38.45 million in 2013.

While international traffic unsurprisingly expanded by 15.2 percent on a yearly basis, domestic traffic, which had been hit hard during the previous years of the financial crisis, recorded a 21.5 percent year-on-year increase in 2014, rising by 2.15 million passengers.

(by Stathis Kousounis & Alexandra Kassimi,