JUN 5, 2017, 11:23 AM
Lea Lane , CONTRIBUTOR
The past few years have been tough ones for the Greek economy and for its tourism industry. As a traveler who has written two guidebooks on Greece, I've felt sure that tourism there would eventually bounce back, but when?
News is good: The Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) announced that it expects a record-breaking 30 million international visitors to Greece for 2017. This represents a growth rate of 7%, or an additional 2 million additional visitors over the previous year. 900,000 U.S. travelers are expected to visit the country this year.
For the last two years, Greece's growth has been nearly twice the global industry average of 3.9 percent, as reported by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in January 2017.
The Greek National Tourism Organization's development strategy includes increasing access via air, land and sea; increased focus on audience segmentation including: luxury, religious, cruises, yachting, diving, cultural tourism, adventure, LGBT and new international markets such as China; and the use of new technology platforms and social media.
The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that tourism in 2017 will help boost the Greek economy by 6.9 percent, and will boost employment by 6.3 percent, supporting nearly 1 million jobs and representing 20% of the country's GDP. One in five jobs created in Greece is related to the tourism sector. Tourism is essential to Greece's effort for recovery and prosperity. Every 30 or more tourists visiting Greece, creates one new job for a Greek.
"We are very optimistic about the upcoming tourist season and our continued momentum," said Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura. "Greece's incomparable natural beauty, ancient history, vibrant urban culture and spirit of 'philotimo' make it one of the world's most unique and desired year-round destinations."
A distinctive and unique characteristic of Greece, "philotimo," represents a sacred honor, promise and the spirit of its people. The word, which has no real translation, conveys tolerance, open arms, and open-mindedness to all visitors, and transcends religion, race, color or creed. It invites travelers to experience Greece as family members and guests.
Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary General, shared his full support of Greece and GNTO while visiting Athens earlier this year. "Greece is one of the most popular and attractive global destinations, which enhances its international appeal and continues to record high performance," said Rifai.
"Over the last two years, Greece has successfully addressed challenges by implementing a new tourism policy focused on extending the travel season, promoting new thematic products, opening new markets, boosting connectivity, promoting new Greek destinations and attracting new tourism investments. The result is a major improvement of Greece's image around the world."
Greece has always been known as a classic destination, but recent recognition includes Athens as one of the New York Times "52 Places to Go in 2017," and Santorini was named the #1 Island Overall in Travel + Leisure's annual "World's Best Awards."
New flights and connections will make traveling to Greece easier in 2017, including daily year-round service by Emirates to Athens from Newark Liberty International Airport. Destinations such as Kos, Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu, Kephalonia, Zakynthos, Aktio and Thessaloniki now have direct flights or connections to a larger number of European cities, as well as the U.S., China, India, Russia and Israel.
"We're very pleased that Emirates has added daily service to Athens. The new route provides much needed year-round non-stop daily service between the U.S. and Greece," said Greta Kamaterou, GNTO's North American marketing director. "Combined with the most stable ports in the region for cruise ships, we're very optimistic about 2017."
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