Greek tourism hit hard as visitor numbers dive

Wed Jul 22, 2009 12:09pm EDT
 
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By Renee Maltezou and Ingrid Melander

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek tourism industry groups said on Wednesday they see their revenues falling about 15 percent this year, dragging the country further into recession as a weak summer season hits a key driver of the economy.

The forecast, a bleak prospect for an economy where tourism accounts for one in five jobs and nearly a fifth of GDP, comes a day after the central bank announced a record 24.2 percent year-on-year drop in non-residents travel spending in May.

"Total income is seen falling by about 15 percent in 2009, while Greek hotels ... will see a nearly 20 percent drop in revenues this year," said Andreas Andreadis, head of the Hellenic Hotel Federation and a vice-chair of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises SETE.

Andreadis and the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA) also said they see a 10 percent drop in tourist arrivals.

The global crisis is taking a heavy toll as not only fewer tourists arrive -- lured to destinations with cheaper currencies like Turkey or stuck at home in Britain or Germany because of recession -- but those who come spend less.

Spain, another top tourist destination in the euro zone, reported on Tuesday that foreign visitor numbers were down 10 percent year-on-year in June though this was slightly better than the January-May period.

"The decline is disastrous in terms of revenues," said HATTA's head Argiro Fili. "Tourists don't spend money or spend on lower quality services."

Although last-minute bookings had helped limit the fall in arrivals to some extent, Fili said she feared some businesses would go bankrupt.   Continued...

 
<p>Fireworks explode over the temple of the Parthenon atop the hill of the Acropolis during New Year's day celebrations in Athens January 1, 2009. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis</p>