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Tourism a priority for Syriza

- by Dabs Banner

Extending the Greek tourism season to make Greece and the Greek Islands a year-round tourist destination is a top priority of the new government.

Incoming Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura told delegates at a meeting of hoteliers that the new Greek government was 'on the same page' as the hotel industry in planning to cash in on the country's tourist potential.

The pledge comes as latest figures show that tourism directly contributed €17 billion to the Greek economy in 2014, or some 9% of Greece's total GDP.

A study released by the Greek Tourism Confederation SETE claims that tourism's total contribution to the economy, from direct and indirect sources is between 20 and 25% of GDP at € 37 – 45 billion.

The study claims that every euro generated directly by tourism rised up to €1.65 of additional cash indirectly.

Researchers found that money from tourism in 2014 grew 11.35 or €1.8 billion while the total GDP for Greece dropped by an estimated € 3.5 billion euros.

It makes tourism the only sector of the Greek economy to have shown significant growth at a time when the rest of the country is suffering under the previous government's tough austerity programme.

In those Greek Islands that rely heavily on tourism, the contribution to the local economy can be even higher.

In Crete, for example, spending by holiday visitors is thought to contribute to some 50% of the local economy.

It is the same for popular holiday islands in the Cyclades, such as Mykonos and Santorini and in the Ionian islands of Corfu, Kefalonia and Zante.

The SETE report said: "These regions are among those with the highest per capita GDP in the country, supporting the view that tourism leads to improved living standards of the areas in which it develops."

Hotels, tavernas and other tourism-based industries also provide plenty of good seasonal employment in the Greek islands and is estimated to be responsible for around 30% of the jobs in the private sector.

According to the latest figures available for 2014, holiday visitors to Greece and the Greek Islands rose by 23% in the 11 months to December and revenue from tourism related industries grew by 13% on 2013.

Latest estimates put total tourist arrivals for 2014, arrivals at 22 million and tourism receipts coming in at some €13.2 billion – both a record for Greece.

Figures could be even higher if Greece can extend the tourism season beyond the traditional summer months from April to October.

A number of initiatives have already been put in place including the promotion of walking holidays and scuba diving as well as health tourism and other specialist holiday schemes.

The tourism minister said the main goals of the ministry will be to strengthen the Greek tourist product and modernise it alongside promoting the country in all foreign markets and enhancing infrastructure development.

"Our paths are common. We want to highlight the competitive advantages of Greek tourism, highlight all unique elements and give the sector its leading position in the development of the Greek economy," she told hotel delegates.