For the moment, at least, data point to a dynamic recovery in the tourism sector. Large hotels in Greece’s most popular destinations report occupancy rates equal to or higher than the pre-pandemic 2019, and compared to 2020, things went better in June and even better in July.
International arrivals at Athens International Airport and the regional airports have nearly doubled from 2020 and passenger traffic on ferries to and from the Cyclades islands is higher than in 2019.
But tourism professionals remain wary: There is still a great deal of uncertainty about August and, even more so, September and October, with the latter two months considered critical as the industry wants to recover as much of the 2019 visitor and revenue levels as possible.
The recent images about the wildfires beamed everywhere by international media created fear among some that they may serve to depress new bookings. Given that this year the trend toward “last-minute” bookings – that is, bookings 2-3 weeks before the travel date – has become more prominent because of the constant changes in pandemic restrictions, it is difficult to ascertain if such a negative turn will take place.
The coolest heads among the experts, however, note that the fires will be put out soon, but the thirst for travel from people confined for so long will not be satisfied anytime soon. For example, the travel restrictions by the US and Israel – the first warning its citizens against traveling to Greece and the second imposing quarantine on arrivals from Greece – do not seem to have dampened interest or slowed down arrivals.
Greece has not only handled the pandemic relatively well but it also upgraded its tourist product in recent years, and many estimate that the goal of reaching 50% of 2019 tourism revenue will be achieved. In 2019, revenue was €18.2 million, a figure that crashed to €4.6 billion in 2020.
Using data from passenger locator forms Kathimerini obtained from the Tourism Ministry, we see that tourist arrivals in July were just over 2.36 million, compared to 3.6 million in 2019 and 1.4 million in 2020. Since the start of the tourism season in May, Greece has received 3.7 million visitors.