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Greek Islands set for visitor record in 2015

- by Andy Cornish

It looks like being another record year for Greek Island holidays with tourism leaders forecasting 26 million visitors to Greek beaches and resorts this season.

According to latest figures from the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), the country's main tourism body, international arrivals jumped 4.6% on last years' record numbers to reach almost 3 million arrivals in August.

It takes the number of holiday visitors for the first eight months of 2015 to nearly 11.4 million, a rise of 6.3 % on the same period last year.

The country's financial troubles, political upheavals and refugee crisis have so far failed to stop holidaymakers booking Greek Island resorts for their summer break.

Now SETE is anticipating some 26 million visitor arrivals this year and expecting much-needed revenue from foreign visitors to top € 14.5 billion this year if the trend continues until the end of the holiday season.

Virtually all island destinations greeted more visitors in the January to August 2015 period. Only the islands Rhodes, Kos and Crete recorded decreases of around 2% each.

But it wasn't just the holiday islands that a pulling in the visitors. The capital city of Athens recorded a massive 23% rise in visitor numbers for August compared with last year, taking overall growth for the whole year to 26%.

A spokesman for SETE said: "Despite the difficult economic situation and the serious problems faced by the industry in the midst of this year's tourism season, the intensive, persistent and systematic effort of all stakeholders, entrepreneurs and workers in Greek tourism is bearing fruit, achieving another record."

However, those working in the Greek hotel sector claim to have seen little benefit from the improved visitors numbers as they face increased taxes as Greece attempts to balance the books.

And they warn of financial problems next season as they try to absorb a future increase in VAT on accommodation and tourist related goods.

President of the Hellenic Federation of Hoteliers (POX), Yiannis Retsos, told a meeting: "The challenge is whether we can afford to absorb the increase and remain competitive."

The VAT imposed on hotels in Greece will rise to 13% from the current 6.5% from October and this is likely to make the cost of a Greek holiday higher next year, putting a brake on the growing popularity for Greek Island holidays.

Nevertheless, the islands remain one of the world's best tourist destination whatever the price as the annual Condé Nast Traveller Readers' Travel Awards in London recently showed with the Greek Islands winning the 'Best in the World' accolade.

Readers of the luxury travel magazine ranked Greece top in the 'Favourite Islands' category ahead of the Balearics, the Maldives, the Hawaiian Islands and Bali.