Greece sees tourism bouncing back to pre-crisis levels

Thu Apr 18, 2013 10:39am EDT
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By Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek tourism revenues are expected to bounce back this year to pre-crisis levels, the industry said on Thursday following the return of political stability to the country.

Visitors from Germany, Britain and Russia are expected back.

The Mediterranean country has pinned its hopes on its sun-drenched beaches and ancient monuments to pull itself out of a deep recession. Tourism is the Greek economy's biggest cash-earner, accounting for about 17 percent of output.

Andreas Andreadis, head of Greece's main tourism body SETE, said tourism revenues are seen rising by up to 10 percent this year to 11 billion euros on the back of an expected record 17 million visitors.

"We are heading for a record year in terms of foreign tourist arrivals," he said in an interview with Reuters. "Our target of about 11 billion euros in direct revenues is feasible and we may even exceed it."

If SETE's forecast is met, receipts will rise to their highest level since 2009, when Greece's debt crisis began. That sparked violent street protests that scared off visitors.

Hoteliers, restaurant owners and tourism businesses have slashed prices and upgraded their services to weather the crisis and lure more visitors, Andreadis said. A better mix of tourist markets - tourists who stay longer and spend more on average - will also help the rise year on year, he said.

About 40 percent of Greece's hotels are now listed under the 4-star or 5-star categories, up from 25 percent during the 2004 Athens Olympics, he said, adding that positive feedback from last year's visitors had also helped pre-bookings.   Continued...

A man takes photographs of the Parthenon temple as he stands outside the ancient Herodes Atticus theatre in Athens November 27, 2012. REUTERS/John Kolesidis