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Record year for Greek holidays

- by Dabs Banner

Tourist arrivals in Greece and the Greek Islands rose a remarkable 23% last year, according to the year-end figures from official sources.

The UK and Germany still hold the top two places for Greek Islands holidays with 2.09 million UK visitors in 2014 and 2.46 from Germany.

They helped take the total to a record 22 million arrivals, a figure that does not include cruise visitors, according to data from the annual border survey carried out by the Bank of Greece and figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority.

Despite the political and economic troubles that habe plagued Greece recently, the islands remain among the most popular holiday destinations for Brits with an increase of 13.2% in the numbers choosing a holiday break in the Greek island last year.

German visitors were up 8.5%, astonishing given ill feeling over Euro loans, while visitors from Bulgaria more than doubled on 2013 numbers at 1.53 million.

The holiday beaches of the Greek Islands are not only attractive to Brits and Germans however. Other European countries are beginning to discover the delights of Greece.

Also up sharply were holiday visitors from France (up 27% to 1.5 million), Italy (up 16% at 1.2 million) and the United States which saw a 27% rise to 592,000.

There was also an increase in holiday arrivals from other parts of the world, including Turkey, China, South Korea and Brazil, although numbers were relatively small.

The good news was offset by a bring drop in visitors from Russia and eastern Europe in the wake of UN and European sanctions over Russia's involvement in Ukrainian affairs, the drop in the value of the rouble and the dop in oil prices which has led not only to Russians bening worse of financially but also the collapse of a number of travel companies.

Alongside a fall on 7.6% in Russian visitors, there was also a drop in arrivals from Sweden (down 8.4%), Norway (7.1%), Israel (7.3% and Canada (21.9%).

A notable feature of the 2014 season was the significant 51% increase holiday arrivals by road with 7.3 million crossing land borders into Greece last year, one in three visitors.

Arrivals by air rose 14.3% to more than 14 million, but dropped 5% compared to arrivals by land and sea. The Greek airports that saw the biggest rise in holiday traffic were Athens, Santorini and Chania in Crete.

In fact, the rise in Greek holiday flights has posed problems for air-traffic controllers who have asked to be given more resources as they deal on average with more than double the flights they handles in 2002.

According to aGreek union officials, each air-traffic controller dealt with 581 flights in 2002, but this rose to 1,232 last year as flights increased to 678,000 while staff numbers fell to 550.

Officials have also called on the government to update its radar system which was installed in 1999 and last upgraded in 2008 especially as travel in Greece is forecast to increase 5% year-on-year between now and 2022.

The growth could be even more as Greece posts record visitors in 2015 with passenger traffic through Athens International Airport posting a 24.5% in March to pass the 1.1 million mark for the first time since 2010. The rise in domestic traffic was even higher at 33%.

Athens Airport has seen a 25.7% rise in total traffic overall for the first three months of the year compared 2014, reaching almost 3 million passengers.

Foreign visitors recording Athens as their final destination increased 29% in the year to March, making the Greek capital an increasingly popular winter destination for tourists.