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Surge in Greek island holidays

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Island beaches heading for best tourist season ever.

The Greek Islands looks set for its best year ever this holiday season with strong forecasts that holiday visitor numbers this year will top the 19 million mark.

Latest figures for tourist arrivals at airports and ports across the Geek islands show double digit rises in July with the popular holiday islands of Crete, and Santorini leading the way.

According to figures compiled by the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), the number of foreign tourist arrivals across the country shot up by 17% between January and May with more than 2.5 million people booking beach holidays in the Greek Islands.

Money spent by visiting holidaymakers over the same period was also up 10.6% on last year, according to the Bank of Greece which monitors tourism sector income.

Among the resorts posting the biggest increase in arrivals in July are the capital city of Athens which recorded a rise in tourist visitors of 31%, the Cycladic islands of Mykonos (up 40%) and Santorini (up 27%) while holiday arrivals at Chania in western Crete rose by 23%.

It put the Bank of Greece well on the way to a record year in holiday visitors in 2014, breaking last year's record of 17.5 million tourists flying in from around the world.

The figures will be good news for Greek hotel and taverna owners after serious setbacks in the Russian and Ukrainian markets following the surprise crash of two major travel companies and a sharp rise in the value of Russian currency.

The huge rise in holiday visitors from Russia and the Ukrainian were the big surprise of the 2013 season with a near doubling in tourism from eastern Europe.

The latest figures also show a major turnaround in the UK market with 15% more Brits opting for a Greek holiday this year, helping to offset a 6% fall in numbers from Germany, the other major tourism player in Greece.

Tourist arrivals from across the European Union topped 2 million over the first five months of the year, up 19% on last year while arrivals from countries outside the EU jumped nearly 13%, taking net income from tourism in Greece this year to €1.13 billion, an increase of 6.7% on last year.

Good news for the Greek economy which is showing the first signs of strength after several crippling years of heavy dept repayments and tough austerity measures by the government. Domestic tourism in Greece has dropped a dramatic 50% this year as Greeks face tough times at home.

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