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Healthy holiday season for the Greek Islands

- by Andy Cornish

As hotels shut down for the end of the tourist season, the industry is celebrating another healthy year for Greek island holidays.
Arrivals so far this year have risen 9.9% according to the latest data from the Greek tourism organisation SET and the Bank of Greece.
And most visitors have been flying in by air, with airports like Mykonos report a healthy 30% rise in holiday traffic so far this year and Kos not far behind with an 18.5% increase.
Forecasters say more than 30 million will have visited Greece and the Greek Islands by the end of the year, notching up a new record.
Revenue from tourism is also expected to break through the €14 billion barrier this year, assuming the last few months stay stable and despite visitors on average spending less on their holidays.
Package holiday firms and airlines are already cashing in on the continued growth with offers of low fares for early bookings next year.
They are helped by the high demand this year which saw many hotels fully booked and disappointment for some last-minute holiday shoppers who were searching for a cheap deal.
The most sought-after Greek Island destinations like Mykonos and Santorini saw hotel occupancy rates soar over 90% in the high season and a subsequent hike in prices for anyone who had not booked ahead earlier in the year.
Plans are also in place to promote Greek holidays even more strongly next year and extending the season beyond the traditional May to September period.
The Discover Greece platform of Marketing Greece is highlighting some of the more remote islands and boosting demand for themed holidays linked to food, wine, and scuba diving.
Greece is fast becoming an all year round destination as Athens, Santorini and Crete figure in favourite autumn destinations in a survey by hotel online search engine trivago.
The survey showed that Greece remains a favourite destination for visitors from Germany, Britain, Italy and France with the islands of Santorini, Mykonos, Crete and Rhodes all included in the top 10 list of foreign trippers.
There has also been a pick-up in domestic demand with more Greeks heading for the beaches.
The tourist numbers have helped boost Greece's ailing economy which looks like ending the year on a high with growth predictions of 2.4%, topping earlier forecasts.
Package holiday operators are also looking to expand offers of Greek holidays next year in the wake of high demand this summer.
Thomas Cook said demand rose 24% this season and plans are in the pipeline to add more hotels in Rhodes and Kos as well as expanding operations on other islands.
Rivals TUI has also announced plans to extend the season with pilot programmes on Crete and Rhodes next year.
TUI spokesman Thomas Ellerbeck said: "There is a new momentum in Greece. The Greek economy has a new foundation and we can make plans for the future."
So, the 2017 season may be almost over but tourism is becoming big business in Greece and hopes will be high that even more holiday records can be set in 2018.