2013 may well be a banner year for Greece. In the wake of strikes and a crumbling economy, the country's tourism scene is reportedly bouncing back with a vengeance: According to Malaysian website The Star, officials are predicting a record-breaking 17 million tourists this year.
Tourism, the article notes, accounts for almost 20 percent of both Greece's GDP and jobs. And with the economic downturn, unemployment has been crippling, with levels at approximately 28 percent, the worst in the Eurozone.
But this year has been better, and officials are offering a lot of credit to the cruise industry for the boost. Greece has reportedly seen a 40 percent increase in travelers on cruise ships, mostly from the US. Andreas Andreadis, who heads the association of Greek tourism enterprises, SETE, also credited the lifting of visa restrictions from emerging markets like China, Turkey and Russia. Russian arrivals at regional airports have increased by 230 percent this year, and Andreadis says that 13,000 visas are issued for travel to Greece in Moscow daily. “The volume is so high that SETE has employed 20 of its own people just to help stamp visas,” he told the Star. Germany, on the other hand, reportedly increased its visits to Greece at the urging of chancellor Angela Merkel. This month, Lufthansa chose Athens for the inaugural flight of its new flagship plane, the B747-8, the largest aircraft in the world.
UK tour operator Mark Warner, which specializes in family and activity travel, reported that bookings to its four Greek summer resorts on the islands of Rhodes, Kos, and Lemnos, are up around 25 percent compared to the same time last year.
But with the increase in visits comes an increase in pricing. The Greek Reporter is noting that hotel rates (and other travel-related costs) throughout the country are on the rise.
The most expensive destination, the story notes, is Imerovigli on the island of Santorini, where an average traveler can expect to pay 335 euros ($437) per night. The town of Ia on the same island came in second at 319 euros, while the village of Firostefani was ranked third with an average price of 288 euros.
Hotel prices in some cities are increasing by more than 70 percent compared to last year, the story continued. Last year, the most expensive destination for the month of July was Elounda, Crete, with an average accommodation price of 291 euros, while Ia cost just 258 euros per overnight stay. Imerovigli was in third place at 256 euros per night.