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Greek holiday firms weather the storm

- by Dave Sewell

Greek holiday firms weather the storm.

The impact of Greek's economic problems were nowhere hear as bad as expected in the Greek Island holidays sector. According to latest figures there were 400,000 fewer tourists to Greece and the Greek Islands last year. Visitors arriving through airports and ferries totalled around 11.3 million in 2012, as drop of 3.3% on the 11.7 million holiday arrivals in 2011.

Tourism organisations were expecting things to be a lot worse in a year that saw changes of government, harsh austerity measures, street riots and threats of a Greek withdrawal from the Eurozone.

The holiday tourism sector feared a large impact on the tourist sector following repeated images on TV and in newspapers of street protests and public sector strikes against ongoing austerity measures, particularly those that resulted in closure of airports, embargoes on ferries and striking bus and taxi drivers.

But the 3% fall in tourists last year came on the heels of a 10% rise in visitor numbers the previous year and early indications from holiday companies and tour operators of a significant rise in early holiday bookings for 2013.

Tourist may find prices in Greece higher than last year after a raft of VAT and other tax hikes but the impact on cash in tourist pockets is unlikely to be very large.

A large drop in the domestic tourist market has forced many Greek hotel and taverna owners to stem price rises that could put off foreign visitors.

The biggest fall in tourist numbers was felt in the capital Athens where the international airport reported a huge 11.5% fall in arrivals last year. Fewer chose a holiday on Rhodes last year, visitors down 7.3%, and on neighbouring Kos there was a 3.5% fall in tourist arrivals in 2012.

But other Greek island holiday destinations did better with Kefalonia reporting a 13% rise in tourist visitors and Chania Airport, in western Crete, where tourist arrivals went up over 9%.

Other Greek islands that greeted more holiday visitors last year were Mykonos, Corfu and mainland Thessaloniki, the gateway to the Halikidiki holiday peninsula.