US, Turkey Spat Could Boost Greek Tourism



Tourists pose for a photo in Greece (file photo)

Greek tourism may receive a shot in the arm this year as political tensions between the U.S. and Turkey could prompt travelers from both countries to choose Greece instead.

Turks have already been flocking across the Aegean to neighboring Greece on vacation in their droves. Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported in early December that the number of Turks to have visited Greece in 2017 was expected to top the one-million mark.

Greece’s proximity and the availability of special visas to allow Turkish visitors easy access to key touristic hotspots — particularly on the islands — have provided a welcome source of revenue for the tourism sector.

The importance of U.S. visitors to Greece also cannot be overstated. Earlier this year Greek media reported comments by the head of the Hellenic American Chamber of Tourism who predicted 900,000 American visitors to Greece in 2017.

This would be a major improvement on 2015’s total of 750,250 U.S. visitors. The number of Turkish visitors that year was over 1.1 million, according to April 2016 data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority.

However, an ongoing series of spats between Washington and Ankara, which have seen both states suspend visa services to each other’s citizens, could work in Greece’s favor.

Only this week, the U.S. State Department issued a warning to its citizens saying they faced threats from “terrorism and arbitrary detentions” if travelling to Turkey.

Turkey quickly hit back, with a foreign ministry statement warning Turkish nationals going to the U.S. of possible “arbitrary detentions based on testimonies of unrespected sources”.

In contrast, Greece this week was ranked among the safest countries for American tourists, according to a new system recently issued for the country’s travelers by the U.S. State Department.

Greece was placed in Level 1 by the Travel Advisory Program. Level 1 urges travelers to “exercise normal precautions”.

U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt welcomed the news.

“Greece [is] at the best level of the State Department’s new Travel Advisory Program. I’m looking forward to seeing even more American tourists here in Greece in the year ahead,” he tweeted.

As the U.S./Turkey relationship continues to suffer amid a slew of accusations and allegations, citizens of both countries may decide Greece offers a better prospect for a safe, sunny and affordable vacation.


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