Greek Islands poised to break visitor record
Andy Cornish: November 2014
Greek tourism leaders are confident that the country will break yet another record for Greek Island holiday visitors this year with major tour operator TUI alone pledging to fly in more than two million visitors next season.
As the number of international tourists visiting Greece jumped 17% in the first half of the 2014 holiday season, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told the annual conference of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) in Athens that tourism had been Greece's "great support during hard times and remains the engine for the Greek economy."
He told the conference: "The sector is breaking one record after another in quality and quantity, and will bring jobs and revenues to the state as long as Greece keeps to its steady course."
The message was not so upbeat earlier this year, nor was it clear that Greek tourism would help restore the country's fortunes in 2014.
Street riots, strikes and civil unrest over the deep cuts in the economy and imposed pay restraint has threatened to send holiday visitors looking elsewhere for a summer break.
But, as the riots were confined to Athens and other manland cities, the sun continued to shine on the Greek island holiday market.
The 2014 summer season saw visitor number from the UK up a massive 25% with the prospect of an even better year in 2015 as holiday tour companies set out their new season brochures.
TUI boss Peter Long told the conference that the international travel giant has plans to extend its 2015 summer holiday season in Greece and he vowed that TUI alone would fly in 200,000 more tourists than last year.
The travel giant owns top flight holiday companies like Thomson and First Choice which have a major share of the UK and German markets.
"We will continue to invest in the future of Greece, working in close co-operation with the government. This includes trialling an earlier start to our 2015 summer season," he told conference delegates.
Greece and the Greek Islands has long been considered one of Europe's top
holiday destinations but holiday companies nevertheless hope to drive even stronger growth in the Greek holiday market in 2015 and in the words of the TUI boss "take it to the next level".
Extending the summer holiday season with earlier and later accommodation offers in the spring and autumn is seen as crucial to the Greek tourism drive in 2015.
Other measures being considered to boost tourist numbers even further are promoting the country's thermal springs and health spas, advertising new opportunities for scuba diving and providing more luxury accommodation for Greek up-market holidays.
It's not everyone's cup of tea. The cheap, basic Greek holiday has been the mainstay of the market in the past but times are changing as high-spending tourists look for more luxurious holiday breaks.
The s growth in Greek tourism this year has caught the notice of the World Tourism Organisation UNWTO which has commended the excellent
results of Greece's tourism sector.
In 2013, international tourists in Greece reached 18 million, a rise of nearly 17% and this year will surely be even better when the final totals have been totted up with officials hoping to pass the 20 million mark.
And work has begun on promoting Greece as a top holiday destination in 2015 with Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni in the UK this month for a the World Travel Market (WTM) 2014 in London.
During her stay in the British capital Mrs. Kefalogianni will hold talks with international travel organisations and give a series of interviews to international and UK media outlets, helping push home the Greek holiday message.
And it's good to see Greeks themselves slowly getting back in the holiday mood. According to latest figures from the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry, a toal of 631,344 Greeks have crossed the Med to visit Turkey so far this year.
This is the highest largest growth rate in Europe at a 24% rise and puts Greece on the way to an estimated 800,000 taking a holiday in Turkey in 2014.
It has been echoed by a record rise in Turkish tourists visiting Greece with forecasts that the figure could top the one million mark by the end of the year.
This holiday exchange comes despite the fact that Greece and Turkey have had poor relations since the 1974 invasion of Cyprus and that the two the two neighbouring countries enjoy similar climates and are fierce rivals for overseas holiday visitors.