Despite the ongoing challenges, the 2023 tourist season in Greece concludes on a positive note, and a new record in tourist numbers.
The 2023 tourist season in Greece wraps up with great success
Despite facing numerous challenges, the 2023 tourist season in Greece will conclude on a high note.
This year, certain major tour operators have chosen to extend their programs this year. As a result, a few prominent hotels, primarily located in Crete and Rhodes will remain operational until mid-November.
In 2023, the tourism season in Greece kicked off with very high expectations. Last year’s great recovery after COVID, in combination with an excellent start of the season, led to a lot of excitement and optimism in the tourism industry.
Indeed, the 2023 season commenced in February, witnessing the arrival of predominantly German tourists in the Peloponnese. They were all eager to indulge in a round of golf at the magnificent Costa Navarino courses.
In early March, TUI encouraged travelers to quickly secure their holiday bookings in Greece, as 50% of hotel rooms in various destinations have already been reserved.
As we moved into mid-April and May, an increasing number of smaller hotels and rooms to let in major destinations, such as the Cyclades, opened their doors to visitors.
A promising start, but a disappointing follow-up
The celebration of Catholic and Greek Orthodox Easter drew numerous foreign tourists to our country, enriching their holiday experience and contributing to increased traffic in April.
However, the month of May proved to be a disappointment for hoteliers nationwide, defying expectations and abruptly bringing the April season to a halt. Hotels in nearly every destination experienced moderate occupancy rates and a lack of anticipated last-minute bookings.
There were multiple factors contributing to this, including the significant rise in airfare prices and the increase in rates for Greek hotels. As a result, the cost of organized packages surged by up to 30%.
Despite the record arrivals reported by the country’s airports, hoteliers, catering services, and trade were left unsatisfied. The “pie” is now divided among many, as there has been a significant increase in both hotel beds and AirBnB accommodations.
Additionally, foreign tourists did not spend as extravagantly as they did in 2022, but rather showed moderation.
Late June was a turning point for tourism
Starting in June, hoteliers nationwide launched sales and promotions to attract last-minute bookings for the remaining summer season.
The first weeks of June were plagued by unpredictable weather, which posed additional challenges. Fortunately, the last ten days of the month marked a turning point, bringing some much-needed stability to the industry.
The following months showed a positive trend, as nearly all tourist destinations experienced a rise in foreign visitor numbers. The cruising industry, in particular, witnessed a significant surge.
However, this growth has brought increased scrutiny to popular ports like Mykonos and Santorini. The high volume of disembarking passengers has put a strain on public infrastructure and inconvenienced visitors staying on the islands.
Unprecedented numbers of arrivals in 2023
Based on the data collected until September, Greece has been steadily approaching the number of international air arrivals recorded in 2022. This doesn’t take into account the official figures for October, which have not been released yet.
By the end of September, Greece has already welcomed a staggering 21 million tourists, almost reaching the total arrivals of 21.3 million recorded in 2022.
So, even if air arrivals in the last quarter of 2023 return to levels seen in the previous year, Greece is on track to set an all-time record, with over 23.5 million tourists arriving via air travel.
Meanwhile, road tourism is displaying notable signs of recovery after experiencing a steep decline in the previous year. While it may not reach the levels seen in 2019, when it surpassed 12 million tourists, the optimistic trend is certainly encouraging.
This trend highlights the growing momentum and positive trajectory of Greece’s tourism industry, a remarkable achievement considering all circumstances.
In terms of tourism earnings, the Bank of Greece’s figures for the first eight months of 2023 appear to support the initial estimates, which projected over 20 billion euros.
From January to August 2023, travel earnings saw a notable increase of 15.3% compared to the same period in 2022, reaching a total of 14.6 billion euros.
With four months remaining to be accounted for, optimistic estimations suggest further growth.
The winners and losers of the season
According to the data, Athens has emerged as the top-performing destination this season. The Greek capital is rapidly establishing itself as a sought-after destination, with Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport reporting monthly double-digit growth in international passenger traffic.
Thessaloniki emerges as the second top-performing destination, boasting a remarkable 20% surge in passenger traffic from abroad between January and September. Notably, Kavala and Mytilini also experienced significant double-digit growth.
Corfu witnessed a commendable increase of over 8%, while Chania saw nearly 8% growth. Kos and Heraklion exhibited more modest yet positive performance, with a 5.5% and 5% increase, respectively.
Despite the huge challenges posed by the devastating forest fires in July, Rhodes concluded the list with a growth rate of 2%.
Following the remarkable surge they witnessed in 2022, Santorini and Mykonos experienced a decrease in tourist arrivals this year. However, it is important to note that the decline only amounts to a few thousand tourists for each destination.
Let’s see what 2024 brings!
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