Greece set for comeback as tourist destination

Fri Mar 8, 2013 7:16am EST
 
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By Michelle Martin and Victoria Bryan

BERLIN (Reuters) - Tourism in Greece is bouncing back this year in an otherwise flat European market, held back by the weak economic climate, travel industry executives said.

The desire for a beach holiday closer to home for cost-conscious consumers in Europe is helping to revive tourism demand in the country, battling recession and a debt crisis.

Doerte Nordbeck from market research group GfK showed in a presentation at the ITB travel fair this week that bookings to Greece from Britain, Germany and the Netherlands for this summer were up 10 percent.

Tourism income for Greece, its chief money spinner, fell by 4.6 percent to 9.89 billion euros from January-November in 2012 according to the country's central bank.

Arrivals from Germany, Greece's biggest tourism market, dropped by almost a fifth, partly on fears about a backlash on German tourists caused by Berlin's tough austerity demands on Athens.

Alltours, Germany's No. 4 tour operator, said bookings for holidays in Greece were up 30 percent on the year by March 5, boding well for the country where tourism accounts for around one fifth of output and one in five jobs.

"The tourism industry in Greece has overcome the crisis of the last two years and is now back on top form," said Willi Verhuven, chief executive of German tour operator Alltours.

Verhuven said the company was in particular seeing a surge in bookings from repeat customers who had ditched Greece in favor of other resorts.   Continued...

 
A tourist takes pictures in front of a closed gate of the archaeological site of the Acropolis in Athens March 8, 2013. REUTERS/John Kolesidis