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Bumper year for Greek holidays

- by Andy Cornish

Visitor numbers to Greek island beaches soar yet again.

Another month, another bumper influx of visitors on Greek Island holidays as tourism officials report numbers up 17% on 2013 with more than 3.5 million holidaymakers flying in between January and May this year. The UK is high in the table with a 25% increase in visitors taking beach holidays in Greece compared to the same period last year, more than offsetting a 5% drop in holiday visitors from Germany.

Arrivals from other European countries jumped over 12% to just more than two million while holiday visitors flying in from countries outside the European Union rose nearly 15% to almost 1.5 million.

Those tourist visitors are also spending more, according to the Bank of Greece, whose latest figures show tourists pumped and extra €1.8 billion into the Greek economy over the same five month period, a jump of 10.6% on the same early season holiday period in 2013.

Other countries showing a rise in the popularity of Greek Island holidays are Russia, which recorded a 39% rise in visitors to 146,000, France with 14% more and the US which notched up a 33% rise to 124,000.

The good news for Greece has done more than compensate for a slight drop in cruise ship holiday visitors in 2013.aA survey by Infobank Hellastat showed sea cruise passengers down 3.7% to 4.6 million.

The survey also found sea cruise revenues down 2.3% to €574 million euros in 2013, against €588 million in 2012 and €605 million in 2011 putting Greece in third place in Europe for sea cruise visitors.

Cruise fleet restructuring by international sea cruise groups this year and the social and political instability in the eastern Mediterranean is likely to see the downward trend continue in 2014, according to latest forecasts from Infobank Hellastat.

Other factors affecting visitor numbers include many of the larger sea cruise vessels are unable to reach the majority of Greek Island ports while top Greek Island holiday destinations such as Santorini and Mykonos continue to be very congested with cruise ships unable to book berthing slots in the high season.

Greece ranks behind both Italy and Spain for cruise ship visits and its share of the European market has fallen to 14.8% from 17% in 2011.