Greece’s tourism industry is booming after the pandemic crisis | European | News and current affairs from across the continent | DW
For a long time, Greece has not seen so much music, so much dancing, so much eating and drinking under bright summer skies: on August 14 and 15, the inhabitants of the Greek islands were once again able to celebrate the traditional feast of the Assumption. And countless tourists joined them for these celebrations.
Twelve years after the start of the financial crisis and two years into the coronavirus pandemic and, so far, six months of war in Ukraine, Greeks are thirsty for carefree days – before, perhaps, having to face again harsh realities. During the third week of August, most Greeks are on vacation, trying to get away from the spyware scandal, refugee and energy crises, and high inflation, which amounted to 11.6% in July 2022.
Tourists visiting the Acropolis in Athens in July
At the same time, hopes are high in Greece that the tourist season will continue to be the success it has been so far. The country is still very dependent on the travel industry: in good years, it represents more than 20% of the country’s GDP. And 2022 seems to be one of those good years.
Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias estimates that there will be even more visitors than in the record year of 2019. In the pre-pandemic year, Greece had 33 million holidaymakers. Tourism-generated revenue totaled €18.2 billion ($18.3 billion) in 2019; this year, the Bank of Greece expects revenues of around 20 billion euros.
One million arrivals per week
The numbers, so far, look promising: Since the beginning of August, almost a million tourists have flown into Greece every week, according to Kikilias. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people drive to Chalkidiki or Pieria in the north of the country, most of them from Western Balkan countries.
July 2022 saw similar numbers, and June was also an exceptionally good month, with Greece having a total of 3.5 million foreign visitors.
Tourists at Angali beach on Folegandros island
“If it lasts until mid-September, we will survive next winter,” said Panayiotis, owner of a large beach bar on the island of Naxos. In July 2022, the largest of the Cyclades islands welcomed almost as many visitors as in the record year of 2019.
The figures for August are, so far, even higher than three years ago. Currently, it is neither easy nor cheap to find a bed there, especially in tourist hotspots like Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu, Kos or Rhodes. In 2022, those who travel at the last minute and have not booked in advance will, even at the beginning of September, have to be lucky and have deep pockets if they want to stay on these islands.
Hidden gems of the Athens Riviera
Juan and his girlfriend Jasmina from Spain don’t regret traveling at the last minute. When they failed to find a room in Santorini in mid-August, they stayed in Athens and discovered a different beach on the Athens Riviera every day.
“It’s wonderful and very comfortable in the city. We take the tram to the beaches, the sea is superb, very warm and clear, and if you don’t want to, you don’t even have to rent an umbrella expensive,” said Jasmina, tanned, as Juan raved about the pubs in the Greek capital.
A cafe in the Monastiraki district of Athens, with a view of the Acropolis
In August, Athens is most pleasant during the evening hours. Many residents left the metropolis for their summer residences. As a result, there are few traffic jams, little noise (at least by Athens standards) and enough vacant seats in pubs, taverns and rooftop gardens with views of the Acropolis.
Festive atmosphere and cultural offers
On many Greek islands, however, the beaches are crowded, sometimes overflowing, as are the pubs and taverns, which is ideal for those who want to party. Those who prefer a bit of peace and quiet will also find plenty to choose from, for example on less crowded islands or in the mountains on the mainland.
A local folk group walks through the old town of Chania in Crete
Plus, summer 2022 has a lot to offer when it comes to culture. After two years of forced interruption due to the pandemic, many concerts are organized and every weekend tragedies, comedies and modern plays are performed in the ancient theaters of Epidaurus, Filippoi, Dion, Dodoni, Samothraki and the many open theaters across Greece.
The many public festivals across the country offer a chance to get back on the dance floor.
Boris Johnson and the British
Even the war in Ukraine could not dampen the holiday mood. Even the absence of Russian tourists, once essential for the regions of Chalkidiki and Crete, has been offset by visitors from other countries.
Laganas beach on the Greek island of Zakynthos
Until mid-August 2022, the majority of Greek holidaymakers were from the UK, such as Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Almost as many people arrived from Germany, followed by tourists from Italy, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Poland.
Data from the Bank of Greece also shows that June 2022 saw an increase of around 50% in the number of visitors from the United States, compared to 2019, which is great news for the tourism industry, because Americans on average spend more money than tourists from other countries.
Airports without chaos, hotels without staff
This summer, two facts related to tourism in Greece are striking. First, chaos has not reigned at the country’s airports. But second, hotels and restaurants have failed to recruit enough staff, despite an overall unemployment rate of over 12%.
INSETE, the research body of the Greek Tourism Confederation, calculated that one in five vacancies could not be filled, mainly because the working and sleeping conditions of potential employees are often dire.
Meanwhile, many Greeks prefer to work in the tourism industry abroad, including even in exotic places like Iceland, due to better working conditions and salaries.
The money they earn will even allow them to get through the next winter, when there are no jobs available in the tourism industry.
This article was originally written in German.