According to data released by Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), 16.87 million passengers passed through Greece’s main airports in 2016, indicating a nine percent increase compared to the 15.47 million arrivals registered in 2015.
Reflecting the industry’s resilience, the numbers demonstrate that despite the obstacles of the recent years, Greek tourism has succeeded in safeguarding its product.
In addition, as highlighted in the 2021 Growth Roadmap, international visitors are expected to reach 22-24 million, with a parallel average spend increase, by 2021.
Commenting on the positive figures, Manos Vatzolas, director, sales and marketing, Ledra Hotels & Villas, stated, “This is the result of the collective work of SETE, Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), and a number of active hotel groups in the country, all working together to properly reposition the Greek product abroad.”
Further elaborating on this, Mina Iliovits, executive, marketing and communications, Mideast Travel Worldwide, revealed, “Truth to be told, Greece deserves this and even greater numbers of arrivals, as it is a dreamy destination that offers optimum infrastructure and many alternatives for visitors all year round.”
Beyond its exceptional infrastructure and natural beauty, the country is currently a point of reference as a unique oasis of stability in a wider destabilised region.
“It is not a secret that this year’s forecast is also directly connected with the geopolitical situation of our neighbouring competitive markets as well as the expensive pricing of more traditional destinations,” divulged Vatzolas.
Even though the destination proved to be significantly popular among European markets, a shift has been noted during recent years, with the country becoming particularly attractive to Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) travellers.
Confirming this shift, Evripides Tzikas, general manager, Novotel Hotels & Resorts, pinpointed, “Our guests from the MENA region are increasing year-on-year and this is something that scripts the potential growth from the specific market.”
As highlighted by hoteliers and travel agents, as well as tourism authorities, the shift is mainly related to the geographical accessibility of the destination, the improvement of air connectivity but also by the fact that Greece is a safe destination, ideal for family holidays.
In fact, and as pinpointed by SETE, family travel seems to be the most important area of focus as far as MENA travellers are concerned. Greece’s year-round weather, clean and safe waters, world renowned hospitality and family-friendly properties are some of the main reasons why MENA travellers are choosing to spend their holidays in Greece.
“Families always come first for Grecotel,” highlighted Alexandra Mallosi, director, regional sales, Grecotel Hotels & Resorts, adding that a number of new family friendly developments, including a 10,000 m2 aqua park have recently been launched.
Elaborating on the value of MENA travellers, Popi Tanta, general manager, sales and marketing, Louis Hotels, said “The percentage of our guests from the Middle East varies, depending on the hotel and the destination.
Strong sellers are our five-star hotel in Limassol, Cyprus, The Royal Apollonia and our boutique hotel in Mykonos, The Mykonos Theoxenia, which is a member of design hotels.”
Millosi further added, “The Middle East is a priority key market for the Grecotel Group. [...] We target Middle Eastern travellers because we are confident we can satisfy every discerning international traveller with a penchant for culture and luxury as we know that Grecotel quality will always meet their expectations.”
As recognised by both hoteliers and travel agents, the Arab market’s penetration has been a priority for tourism authorities during the last decade.
Through a series of familiarisation trips, exhibitions and social media campaigns, SETE and GNTO have invested a great amount of effort in promoting the country to the MENA region.
In the framework of strengthening links between the two countries, Elena Kountoura, tourism minister, Greece, held a series of meetings with leading UAE-based tour operators and travel agencies during Arabian Travel Market, including Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, founding chairman, Al Habtoor Group, in order to discuss potential investment opportunities and large-scale projects currently underway in the country.