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Bumper year for Greek Island holidays

Olympic airways tailfins

Greece is enjoying a significant revival of holiday visitors with a forecast 26 million tourists arriving on Greek Island beaches this year.

The Institute of Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) said in a report that numbers this year should be well up on the 24.8 million notched up in 2016.

And that figure fails to include the sea cruise ship visitors who could help take the total well past the 28 million mark despite a worrying drop in cruise traffic in 2017 so far.

Signs are pointing to a rise in cash revenues from tourism after a sluggish start this year, but even so, it would only take it back to 2015 levels.

Cash-strapped holiday visitors have been hanging onto their cash recently given the poor performance of both the British pound and the dollar against the euro.

Although visitors from the UK and the US remained flat from January to May, tourism arrivals from Germany and France jumped more than 20%.

It took visitors in the first six months of the year to nearly 11 million, just beating last year's figures for the same period.

Arrivals by plane and road touched 10.97 million according to the Greek Tourism Federation (SETE) against 10.11million last year.

A record 3.2 million are forecast to arrive in Greece in August, the peak month in the holiday season with airline bookings from German leading the way. Top Greek destinations for holidaymakers so far this year are the popular islands of Crete, Rhodes, Zante, Corfu, Mykonos and Santorini.

It is the luxury end of the market that appears to be enjoying the best tourist season ever with five-star rooms at high-end islands like Mykonos and Santorini at a premium.

Occupancy rates at the top hotels are reported to be close to 100% for the rest of the season. Travel firms put booking for luxury hotels on Santorini, Rhodes and Corfu at 99% while Mykonos has only 3% of its top flight hotel rooms left.

And these rooms don't come cheap in the scramble for places. A double room at a five-star hotel on Santorini will cost more than €8,000 a night while some hotels on Mykonos are charging more than €11,000 for an single night's stay.

Airline seat bookings from Germany to Greece are up 11.7% followed by the UK with an 8.5% rise. It takes overall arrivals through airports up by 10.5% in the first half of the year.

Many Greek Island airports are now run by German-Greek consortium Fraport after they were sold off last year to help repay some of the country's massive debts. A total of 14 regional airports are now managed by the consortium, and passenger arrivals were up 14.1% on last year by the end of July.

By way of contrast, cruise ship passengers landing at Greek ports fell between January and July this year. Biggest hit were ports at Heraklion on Crete which reported a 39.4% drop in the cruise liner passengers and Rhodes, where arrivals in the main port fell 10.9% to just over 98,000.

Even the popular cruise island of Santorini has seen a decline this year, but experts say Greece is not the problem. Cruise experts put it down to the political upheavals in Turkey which have resulted in companies taking Turkish destinations off their itineraries, with eastern Mediterranean Greek ports suffering as a result.

And tourist spending patterns are a problem for Greece with arrivals keeping a tight grip on spending. Between January and May this year, the average spending by tourists fell 1.5% to €430.

And with the Greek tourism season short in comparison with its competitors this means the Greek island holiday industry is losing out. A National Bank of Greece study put average tourist spending at less than €70 a day in Greece, 15% lower than competitor countries.

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