With a record-breaking tourist season in full swing and everyone seemingly happy – apart from visitors to Greece’s most popular island, Santorini, who were left in the dark with power outages – the numbers are getting a big boost from new emerging markets for Greece, especially Turkey and Russia, who are expected to account for two million of them, industry analysts said.
The initial forecast for the number of Russian tourists this year stood at 1 million but this is now being revised to 1.2 million. Their number was up 37.6 percent in the January-May period, more than in any other competitor country destinations, such as Spain, Turkey or Cyprus.
The head of the Hoteliers’ Association in Iraklio, Crete, Nikos Halkiadakis, said there may be more Russians than any other group this year. In the April-July period it was 252,900, exceeding even arrivals from Germany, which totaled 222,070.
This is also encouraging in terms of the projected revenues, as each Russian spends about 1,000 euros on average while on foreign trips – slightly more than the average German tourist – when the average visitor to Greece lays out about 560 euros. Halkiadakis estimates that according to the available data so far, a further increase of up to 30 percent in the number of Russian visitors may be realized next year.
The respective projection for Turkish visitors is up to 800,000, who may not stay as long as the Russians but spend considerable amounts on food and drink. The combined increase of Russian and Turkish visitors is 100 percent of what it was only three years ago and seems to have benefited from easier visa access.
Turkish visitors in particular this year chose to celebrate the end of Ramadan at destinations in northern Greece and on islands close to the Turkish mainland. A pilot program of easier visa requirements for Turkish tourists – who mostly come for two or three days – applies this year for the Dodecanese islands of Rhodes, Kos, Kastellorizo and Symi. The parental home of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, in Thessaloniki, which has been renovated and reopened as a museum, is seen as a major attraction.
The latest projections for the year as a whole put the number of foreign visitors to Greece at 17.5 million, with revenues totaling 11-11.5 billion euros, some $14.6-$15.3 billion and giving the economy a critical shot in the arm during a crushing economic crisis.