Greece’s Tourism: From 33,000 Visitors in 1950 to 18 Million in 2014

Greece_TourismTourism is Greece’s heaviest industry. It may sound like a common witticism to many people, but this is the truth and if you take a close look at the numbers, you will see it, too.

18 million tourists are expected to visit Greece during 2014; a number twice as big as Greece’s population. However, a few decades earlier, back in the 1950s, the number of tourists that visited Greece hardly reached 33,000.

Of course, the situation in Greece at that time was totally different; the country was trying to heal its wounds caused by the Civil War and the World War while the Greeks were seeking better days.

Even if the tourism enterprises in Greece were not familiar with the “management and promotion of tourism” at the time, the tourism industry was a fundamental phenomenon both financially and socially.

Assistant Professor of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University at the Department of Economics Stella Kostopoulou presented a survey at the academic symposium of Aristotle University conducted by the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) concerning the development of the Greek tourism industry from 1950 to 2012.

According to the survey’s data, the number of tourists that visited Greece in the 1960s significantly increased (1,098 percent). Between 1961 and 1990 the phenomenon of mass tourism started to dominate globally in the tourism sector. Greece was not an exception. In 1990, the tourism sector reached its peak at a worldwide level.

Kostopoulou says that tourists who came to Greece over the past decades were interested primarily in visiting Athens in order to see the cultural monuments of Attica firsthand.

However, since the early 1970s, tourists prefer Greece’s islands and coastal regions for their vacations. The age of mass tourism started to dominate the entire industry.

Despite the fact that the over-concentration of tourists in certain regions caused problems to both the social and natural environment, the phenomenon of mass tourism dominated the market for the next few decades.

In the early 1990s, mass tourism began declining. The State’s mechanism acknowledged that a new, strategic plan was necessary at both a national and local level in order for alternative forms of tourisms to develop.

In 2000, more than 13 million tourists selected Greece as their holiday destination. Until 1990, Greece’s development in the tourism sector was the fastest in Europe and at a worldwide level. From 1999 to 2012, the tourism industry of Greece was developing slowly comparing to the rhythm of development in both the European and International tourism industry.

Greece’s tourism sector is, without a doubt, one of the main sources of income for all the post-war Greek governments. However, in order to achieve further development and stability, the Greek state must introduce alternative forms of tourism that will make Greece’s tourism market even more competitive.


  1. Starting in 1988, I took my first work vacation in Greece. Since then I have spent almost every Summer vacation there and always feel sad when I have to return. Even today, with the increased number of tourists, there are beaches and other locales where one can find beauty, peace and quiet. It is a unique place, far better than the Caribbean and Hawaii which I have also visited.

  2. Greece is the number 1 vacation spot in the world. The Greek islands and mainland offer hospitality, breath taking scenery, beautiful crystal clear waters -beaches, amazing food, sun and a vacation that is guaranteed to make lifelong memories. I’ve vacationed on many Greek islands all over- Ionian-Cyclades- Dodecanesa- Saronic islands and all over mainland Greece. The best place on planet Earth is Greece for vacation. Visit once and you’ll never want to go anywhere else but Greece summer after summer after summer. Trust me.
    I’ve been all the over the Caribbean, Intercontinental US and few European cities. All have their unique beauty but nothing comes close to matching or topping Greece.

  3. YES, Greeces Tourism has grown in visitor numbers, but the way they think and manage the increase in numbers is zero. With all this tourism where are the industries to support this Tourism boom. I am not just talking about now but also in the past.

    Where are the Greek Glass manufacturers, ceramic manufacturers, cuttlery manufacturers, table cloth manufacturers, light bulb manufacturers, etc, etc, anything that is involved in providing for this industry.

    Instead we Greeks import glassware from Turkey and Germany and other places. So the money and jobs go to other countries. So Greece is a nice country as it provides jobs to the Turkish and German populations.

    One has to think and imagine how many support industries exist that manufacture and supply hotels, restaurants, cafes, beach businesses, etc.

    All we do is build hotels and restaurants that is all.

  4. You make great points. The tourist industry is essentially for those that have no other skills and lack entrepreneurial drive. (i.e. lazy and incompetent). We focus on the low skilled low wage tourist industry then wonder why pay is low. Germany on the other hand focuses on technology and productivity to be an export engine. It’s unsurprising their standard of living is superior. (and will continue to be so for as long as some Greeks think selling cheap trinkets to drunk tourists is a path to a good life.

    The word technology has a greek etymology. It is a national disgrace we lack any of our own. It hurts not only economically but also policalically (since such utter stupidity certainly is not associated with giant minds of ancient Greeks)

  5. and there are beaches not well traversed, country villages that never see tourists but which can amaze you… Then there is the snow and the potential for skiing etc, the coastal areas screaming for jetties for yachts to visit…

  6. ”All we do is build hotels and restaurants that is all”

    Actauul I dont even thinh teher is enough of those eithr…of godd qualty anyway.
    Greece attacst too much of the bottom end torsut trash…like the B