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Tourist arrivals pass 20 million mark

- by Dabs Banner

Greek Islands holidays are staying well on target for another record year after visitor arrivals to November broke through the 20 million mark.

Despite Greece's political troubles, high unemployment and bleak austerity measures, tourist arrivals in 2014 look set to hit a record 21 million as the Bank of Greece reported yet another surge in visitor numbers.

Latest figures take tourist arrivals to Greece in 2014 to almost 22% higher at 1.9 more than the previous year with UK and German tourists leading the way.

International arrivals at the country's main holiday island airports in the year to the end of November amounted to 14.3 million, against 12.4 million in the same period in 2013.

The biggest annual rise was at Kalamata Airport, on the mainland, with a huge 86.5% increase in holiday arrivals, taking the airport past the 100,000 mark for the first time.

The island of Mykonos was next with a 39% rise in visitors to 246,791 arrivals followed by Athens International Airport which posted a 720,000 increase to rise above 3.2 million mark.

Hotel owners in the Greek capital of Athens reported the largest occupancy increase and revenue per room growth in the whole of Europe.

The occupancy rate of Athenian hotels in November 2014 rose 15.3 % to 61.5%, the largest increase in Europe, according to data from STR Global on the European hotel industry.

The Bank of Greece figures also show that tourist visitors are spending more with an estimated 10.6% increase in revenues from tourist related industries with a €5.2 million rise on 2013.

Holiday Brits seem more willing then ever to dip into their pockets with an 18% rise in tourist spending by Brits.

But it's not all sunny skies for the Greek tourism market. The collapse of the Russian rouble saw an 8% drop in visitors from Russia and other east European countries, a market that had been on a sharp upward trend before the Ukraine crisis and the imposition of sanctions.

A number of Russian travel firms have gone bust this year leaving thousands of tourists stranded in the Greek islands.

And the latest political crisis, with snap elections and the rise of radical parties on both wings, have seen advance bookings for Greek island holidays taking a sharp nosedive in December.

Early-bird holidaymakers often try to cash in on special deals but fears of political upheaval means many are putting holiday plans on hold.

Radical Greek political parties on both left and right have been gaining ground in the polls with some pushing for Greece to default on its international loans and pull out of the Eurozone.

Such a move would have profound consequences for the Greek economy and holidaymakers are wary of paying holiday deposits up front while the political situation in Greece remains so uncertain.

Many Greek hotel owners have already signed deals with major package tour operators and they could face very difficult times if Greece pulled out of the euro and struggled with a collapsed economy and the possibility of soaring inflation.

The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) has already earned that advanced hotel bookings for 2015 have taken a big hit because of the uncertainty surrounding the political situation in Greece.