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Brits first to arrive on Rhodes

- by Andy Cornish

Rhodes is set to spearhead the Greek Island tourist invasion later this month when the first charter plane lands at Rhodes' Diagoras Airport.

The Boeing 757 from Manchester is expected to land at around 8.15pm on March 28 effectively marking the start of the package holiday season on Rhodes.

And the holiday island is set to greet the 'early-bird' British holiday arrivals in style with a special welcome reception that will include performances laid on by local acting groups.

The Manchester flight, by package holiday giant Thomson, will just pip the post in starting the Greek holiday season on Rhodes this year.

Just 35 minutes later another Thomson flight from Gatwick is expected to land at Diagoras with a full complement of holidaymakers.

After March 28, incoming holiday flights arrive thick and fast with three flights the following day from Tel Aviv in Israel at 10.30am followed by a British Ryanair flight from the East Midlands and another from Belgium.

A spokesman for the Rhodes Tourism GGG said:" England is the country remains firmly in first place and which this year will maintain the lead in the tourist season."

No charter flights are due on the 30th but the last day of the month sees Ryanair flights arriving from Stansted and the following day the same company flies in from Stockholm carrying Swedish tourists.

Tourism leaders across Greece and the Greek Islands are banking on another record year for tourist arrivals in 2015.

It comes despite a poor start for 'early-bird' holiday bookings this season and concern over political unrest which saw the election of a new left-wing government last month.

Fears that Greece might be forced to make an early exit from the euro also fuelled concern over booking holidays this year.

Despite the difficulties and the negative image of Greece in some European countries, particularly in Germany, early signs in 2015 are promising.

There is already an increase in charter companies booking airport 'slots' and tourism officials describe early figures for 2015 as 'promising'.

The new Greek government has made extending the tourist season a top priority for 2015 with the intention of making Greece and the Greek Islands a year-round holiday destination.

Incoming Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura says the new Greek government is planning to cash in on the country's tourist potential after figures showed that tourism directly contributed €17 billion to the Greek economy in 2014.

A study revealed that tourism was the only sector of the struggling Greek economy to have shown significant growth as rest of the country faced a tough austerity programme.

The Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) recently announced it's target four tourism numbers in 2015. It hopes to attract 25 million international arrivals in 2015, beating last year's total which is expected to top 21.5million.

The optimism follows early indications that airline seat capacity on holiday charters flying to Greek airports this year has already increased by one million on the numbers for 2014.

Holiday arrivals from the UK alone rose 13.2% last year while French visitors jumped 27% and German tourists by 8.5%.