Greece enjoys record tourism surge and seeks to extend it into winter
Updated 23:25, 18-Aug-2022
Evangelo Sipsas in Greece

Greece is having a good summer, with numbers expecting to pass those of 2019, a record-breaking year for Greek tourism. But many working in the industry are worried. With inflation on the rise, what will happen when tourists leave?

Situated just two hours east of the Greek capital by ferry, Andros is one of the greenest islands of the Aegean. Although it's not as popular as nearby Mykonos or Santorini, this regional island has seen record numbers of foreign arrivals.

"If we compare number of arrivals, this year is much better than 2019 – we're already past those numbers, especially in foreign tourist arrivals," said Christos Balogiannis, head of the island's tourism network. "And those numbers will even increase more, as for the first time we have many bookings in October."


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Greece is experiencing one of the best tourism seasons of all time. Numbers have surpassed pre-pandemic levels and are on track to attract more than 33 million visitors. 

So far several Greek islands are approaching full or high booking capacity as the summer season peaks, with tourist traffic in the Cyclades moving at a faster pace than 2019.

In July arrivals at Greece's major airports increased by 14 percent from the same period in 2019, amounting to 12.8 million.

Greek tourism is booming – from sandy beach to city street. /CGTN

Greek tourism is booming – from sandy beach to city street. /CGTN

But it's not only resort islands that are reporting a significant rise in arrivals. Flights into Athens have jumped by 20 percent, with the city bracing for more than a million visitors a week and the government attributing this success to the work done from previous years.

"What we are seeing now, it is my firm belief that we are building on this safety notion and the sense of safety that people felt in 2020 and 2021," said deputy minister of tourism, Sofia Zacharaki. "There was a good practice here, and now I believe that we are also debited with the good image, the positive image of the country during the pandemic."


Extending the season into (a harsh) winter

The tourism season in Greece may only last seven months but it employs more than a million people, making it the backbone of the economy. The question being asked now is how Greece can sustain the economic benefits from the tourism boost through the winter months.

"First, we will have prolong campaigns through the year – we will have campaigns of city breaks," says Zacharaki. "Second, we have vouchers that are dedicated to our Greek compatriots – more than 100 million euros will be dedicated out of four different programs to help out. 

"We hope it will make a difference because it can help and aid different destinations thorough the year, meaning families, businesses and workers to have a sustainable income."

After losing close to two years to COVID-19, tourism numbers are bouncing back stronger than ever, putting the pandemic in the history books.

But with Europe suffering a cost-of-living crisis and inflation rates across the eurozone hitting record levels, the government will have to do everything it can to keep the sun shining on Greek tourism.

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