Lonely Planet Writer

Bright spot in rough times for Greece as tourism hits record levels

Headlines about the economic crisis in Greece have been read right around the world but one bright spot on the horizon has been a remarkable growth in tourism in the country.

Greece is recovering from economic woes with the help of a tourist boom.
Greece is recovering from economic woes with the help of a tourist boom. Image by Getty Images

A record 23.5 million holiday makers visited the country last year, lured by its rich history, good weather, and the promise of visiting at least some of the thousands of islands in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. However, if 2015 was a good year for Greek tourism, this year is on track to be even better with another 10% rise in the number of people travelling through its airports in the first five months of this year. The busiest airport by far was Athens, which handled almost 1.8 million passengers from January to May, but airports in the city of Thessaloniki, the island of Rhodes, and both Heraklion and Chania on Crete also experience big increases in traffic.

Santorini, Greece.
Santorini, Greece. Image by Getty Images

Several of the country’s island airports have also been inundated with requests for new routes with airports in Skiathos, Mykonos, Santorini, and Kefalonia all proving popular. The tourism boom is not just confined to beach resorts or island hopping and the Greek capital has also been inundated with visitors. Athens is expected to play host to 4.5 million travellers this year with nine new hotels under construction so even more tourists can visit sites like the Acropolis, the National Archaeological Museum and the Daphni Monastery.

Some of the country’s tourism growth has of course been attributed to unrest and violence in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and also Turkey. Yet the Greek tourism fairy-tale is not exclusively based on that as visitor numbers have been growing much faster than in places like Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. However, Greece’s tourism union SETE have warned that hotels and travel should not become an easy target for tax after recent VAT increases.