Record number of Britons head to Greece as nation enjoys tourism boom

Monday, February 27, 2023


UK travellers are leading an extraordinary rebound in tourism to Greece with arrivals up by 181% last year, according to the country’s central bank.

Almost 4.5 million Britons were registered at Greek entry points, a record number and nearly 3 million more than in 2021.

For the first time, UK tourists edged out Germans – who have topped the visitor league tables in Greece for decades – in what some are calling a defiant display of post-pandemic “revenge” tourism.

In terms of Greece, the Brits are leading the way and they’re big spenders, the nation’s tourism minister, Vassilis Kikilias, told a news agency.

Central bank figures released last week showed UK visitors generating over €3bn (£2.65bn) in tourism revenues in 2022, more than twice the amount they spent the previous year.

Prior to the pandemic, just under 3.5 million UK citizens visited Greece in 2019, itself a record year in which a still unprecedented 33.1 million tourists descended on the country – more than three times Greece’s entire population.

Greece was among the most visited places on Earth in 2022. US travellers returned en masse, with the prolonged tourist season beginning in March and ending in late November.

The rebound in a country so heavily reliant on tourism – it accounts for 25% of the country’s GDP – helped the economy grow by an unexpected 5.6% in 2022, a recovery that would have been unimaginable during Greece’s long-running debt crisis.

The dramatic rise has spurred concerns over the impact excessive tourism will have on the environment and cultural sites such as the Acropolis, where visitor numbers have also exploded.

Before the season has even begun industry officials say there is every sign the bonanza will continue.

From the early bookings in Britain, it’s clear that this year will be as good, if not better, than last, said Grigoris Tasios, president of the Hellenic Hoteliers Federation.

Tour operators were requesting more beds and more flights back in November when they attended London’s World Travel Market.

The British-owned low-cost leisure airline Jet2, now the UK’s biggest tour operator, had, he said, injected “particular dynamism” into the prospect of a continuing rise in UK visitors by expanding its itinerary and flying into destinations nationwide.

Kikilias says “the calculated risk” Athens took opening up the country to travel in the summer of 2020 – instituting a multiple-testing system before the introduction of vaccines – had helped tourists see Greece as a safe destination.

But he also attributed the rebound to behind-the-scenes negotiations with British airlines to expand and extend routes and flying times.

Post-Brexit, Anglo-Greek relations have additionally evolved – with both governments, for the first time, engaging in talks over the possible return to Athens of the western world’s most contested piece of art: the fifth-century BC Parthenon marbles.

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