Greek holidays head for record
Andy Cornish: March 2014
Forecasts of a record-breaking year for Greek holidays.
Tourism experts forecast a record breaking year for this year with more than 18.5 million visitors expected to fly out to Greek holiday beaches.
The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) is confident that tourist visitors this year will exceed the record beating 17.9 million holidaymakers that visited the Greek Islands in 2013 .
Greece certainly needs the cash that tourism revenues can pull in as the Greek economy continues to struggle under international debt and the unemployment rate hits 28%.
According to tourism analysts, if the improvement in holiday visitor numbers continues on its current trend, Greece could record 24 million holiday visitors by 2021 helping create an estimated 300,000 more jobs.
Tourism contributed 16.4% to the Greek GDP in 2012, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, making Greece one of the highest tourism in Europe and, according to SETE, there are now more than one million people working in the Greek tourism sector.
And it's Britain and Germany leading the way by notching up the highest number of annual holiday visitors and showing the biggest increase in early bookings for Greek Islands holidays in 2014 followed by France and Russia.
According to latest reports from SETE, holiday bookings so far show the number of incoming of tourists from Germany and France much the same as last year but with a 10% increase in early Greek Islands holiday bookings from Britain.
SETE is currently in talks with the Greek government on new public and private initiatives to promote tourism even further this year including extended opening hours for museums, monuments and other archaeological sites.
Greece is also expected to invest 3.3 billion annually in infrastructure projects that will include better transport links between islands with more ferry services and the launch of fast seaplane services.
Andreas Andreadis, president SETE, said last year's visitors generated an estimated € 13 billion in foreign earnings and added: "There are positive, encouraging signs from all traditional and new markets."
It's all good news for British holidaymakers thinking of visiting the Greek islands this year as hotels and travel agents have cut their prices in a bid to attract even more visitors.
According to available data of tourist arrivals in the major airports in Greece, figures for January and February 2014 show a rise of nearly 28.8% compared with the same period of 2013.
Athens airport in particular has shown a big turnaround in fortunes with January and February arrivals up 30% at 60,000 passengers compared to the same period in 2013.
Top tourism officials from package holiday groupTUI met Greek tourism minister Olga Kefalogianni recently and spoke of a "regeneration" of Greek tourism this year.