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Surge in Greek holiday sales

- by Andy Cornish

British tourists appear to be shrugging off fears of political instability in Greece as holiday bookings get back on track.

Fears have been growing that the rise of the left-wing party Syriza could trigger a Greek exit from the Eurozone after elections are held at the end of January.

The political turmoil has been blamed for a drop on 'early-bird' bookings for holidays in Greece as holidaymakers hold back until the outcome of the elections.

But, despite a slow start to the season, UK holidaymakers, at least, are now placing Greek island holidays among the most popular destinations this year.

According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), a third of summer holidays will be sold in January and February, with early bookers taking advantage of some of the travel industry's best deals.

A good exchange rate against the euro, a cut in air passenger duty and consumers emerging from the austerity gloom in Britain are cited as reasons for the turnaround in sales of Greek islands holidays.

Some ABTA Members report a surge in 'early bird' bookings and 'exceptional' trading on some days with sales up more than 30% on this time last year.

Savvy holidaymakers are making the most of early-booking deals and discounts that are currently on offer as well making sure they don't miss out on room availability in the most popular beach resorts and island destinations.

Although sales of holidays in Greece now look to be back on track it will take a huge surge in booking to match last years record figures for holiday arrivals in the Greek islands.

Revised figures from the first nine months of 2014 lave led to forecasts of a total 24 million arrivals from abroad in 2014, breaking holiday records for three years in a row.

Arrivals in January to September totalled 20.7 million, 20% up from a year earlier, beating holiday arrival figures of 20.1 million for the whole of 2013. Comparison with 2012, itself a record breaking year, are even more impressive.

Figures from the Bank of Greece show tourism receipts in the first nine months of 2014 passed the € 12 billion mark up nearly 11% on last year.

The rise in airlines travelling to Greek airports in 2014, especially cheap flight airlines such as easyJey and Ryanair has helped to boost arrivals to record levels.

The country's Civil Aviation Authority reported this week that the 11 international airports in Greece and the Greek islands dealt with more than 45 million passengers last year, up 17% on the 38.45 million in 2013.

Along with Greece, the most popular destinations for holidaymakers hoping to snap up early bargains this year are the Balearics and the Canaries.

For long haul holidays, Caribbean destinations are proving the most popular with British holidaymakers with resorts in Costa Rica, Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic at the top of the table so far.

But it's not just the Brits that are giving Greek island holidays a fillip this year. The decline of the euro against the US dollar has also perked up demand from the United States while Germans have show renewed interest in Greek island holidays this year.

But the growing political tensions in Greece are still throwing a shadow over the revival in the country's tourism fortunes.

Leaders of the left-wing Syriza party have threatened to default on international loans, increase spending on social welfare and create more government jobs if it gets into power on January 25th polling days.

Such moves would almost certainly trigger the end of loans helping to prop up the country and could even force an exit from the euro and a return to the Greek drachma.

The effect on the Greek economy would be dramatic with some finance experts predicting it could send the Greek economy into freefall with rampant inflation, bank closures and the prospect of long-term depression.