Greek tourism revenues could increase by up to 10 per cent in 2011 after two years of sharp declines, senior industry officials told Reuters on Monday, in a rare piece of good news for the debt-choked country.
The recession-hit country depends heavily on its beaches and monuments for any economic recovery, with the tourism sector accounting for about 16 per cent of GDP and employing roughly a fifth of the country's 4.26 million workforce.
"If there are no surprises -- as the publicity Greece is getting (due to the debt crisis) is not helping -- we expect a rise in revenues near 10 per cent," the head of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), Andreas Andreadis, told Reuters.
Earlier in the year, industry officials including Andreadis had said they expected a jump in arrivals but little growth in revenues as hotels slashed prices to attract visitors.
With most pre-bookings for the high, summer season registered and the Easter holidays already accounted for, industry officials now offer a more optimistic view.
"It might not be 10 per cent, but it will be close to this figure," Andreadis said, adding that revenues would climb thanks to a rise in arrivals due to the global economic recovery and unrest in competitor destinations Egypt and Tunisia.
Last year, violent protests and the death of three people during a protest in May, when Greece was forced to seek a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, put off tourists including many Germans, French and Britons despite a recovery in many European economies.
Protests have been less violent this year and hoteliers also see a rise in revenues.
"An 8-10 per cent rise, which is possible .. would help contain recession," the president of Greece's hoteliers, Yannis Retsos, told Reuters, adding he believed a 5-6 per cent rise in revenues could be a more realistic forecast for the time being due to slashed prices.
Greece's economy is in recession for the third consecutive year and is seen contracting 3 per cent this year, after a 4.5 per cent slump last year.
Retsos said that major tourist destinations for foreign tourists, such as Rhodes, Crete and Corfu were faring much better than last year with overall airport data already showing a 4.8 per cent rise in arrivals from January-April.
But smaller islands, which depend a lot on domestic tourism were facing problems as austerity-hit Greeks cut down on expenses.
Both officials repeated earlier projections for a 10 per cent rise in arrivals this year. They expect a 10 per cent rise in British tourists and a 3-5 per cent increase from Germany, Greece's top two markets, as well as strong growth in arrivals from Russia and eastern Europe.
"We need to take advantage of this good year and start building our future," Retsos said.