Earlier this month, Elon Musk flew to Mykonos, seemingly coughing up €7,000 to benefit from the pleasures of a gold-coloured speedboat for a few hours. On close by Paros, Roger Federer lapped up the rays along with his household away from the tennis court docket whereas Magic Johnson enthused about his “life altering expertise” on the Acropolis and Nicole Kidman thanked “stunning Greece” on Instagram.
Greece is having a great summer time. Simply when tourism officers assume it may well’t get higher, it does. Athens is bracing for one million guests this week; document numbers are flocking to the islands – jellyfish however – and there are holidaying celebrities galore.
“This 12 months the entire world is voting [for] Greece,” the nation’s tourism minister, Vassilis Kikilias informed the Observer. “We’ve a warfare in Europe, a pandemic that’s nonetheless with us, an vitality disaster, international uncertainty, inflation, tensions with Turkey and even jellyfish and but they’re nonetheless coming. Arrivals on fashionable islands are up 20%.”
Within the Greek capital it may well’t get a lot better both: after the misplaced years of coronavirus holidaymakers have returned en masse, teeming via the streets of the town’s historic centre and thronging archaeological websites.
Figures already level to a vacationer season that may outstrip the nation’s all-time document of attracting 33.1 million guests – greater than thrice Greece’s complete inhabitants – in 2019.
For Costas Lavidas who runs the kebab store that first made his grandfather well-known again within the Nineteen Fifties, the holidaymakers are a life saver. “What’s sure is that if it weren’t for vacationers I wouldn’t have the enterprise that I’ve,” he mentioned, putting sticks of marinated pork on the grill behind him as queues shaped outdoors the eatery off Syntagma Sq. in Athens. “Thank God they’re right here!”
It’s not solely resort islands which are reporting a big rise in arrivals. Demand for cruises has additionally rocketed, with over 700 liners anticipated to dock at Greek ports in 2022. “There was a 280% improve within the port of Thessaloniki and a 130% improve in Piraeus,” Kikilias mentioned.
Flights into Athens’s worldwide airport – among the many few in Europe to not be blighted by delays this summer time – have jumped by 20%. The surge is such that if there may be any downside in any respect it’s discovering sufficient staff to workers the trade. In current months resorts and resorts have drafted Ukrainian refugees to assist fill posts.
“As of two March there have been 9 direct flights from the US to Athens day by day. It’s been a game-changer,” added Kikilias. “Round 500,000 Individuals are anticipated to return by November. They’re massive spenders and with the greenback to euro charge they will spend much more.”
Greece earned €18.2bn in vacationer revenues in 2019 and simply over €10bn final 12 months when Greece opened its borders in Could. Talking to CNN final Thursday the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, mentioned he thought officers could be “pleasantly stunned” as soon as they “did the mathematics” on the finish of the season.
“Greece is doing significantly effectively this summer time,” he informed the US community. “We’ve put numerous effort in upgrading our tourism product, ensuring that every one new investments in tourism are sustainable. We noticed this 12 months the tourism season begin very early and I count on it to finish very late.”
In an economic system so reliant on the sector – tourism accounts for 25% of Greece’s financial output and one in 5 jobs – the journey bug that seems to have taken a maintain post-Covid has had the impact of being greater than only a psychological balm.
Away from the rosy figures, Greeks know they’re in retailer for a tricky winter. Inflation hit 11.5% – a 28-year excessive – this month, in response to knowledge launched by Eurostat on Friday. In a nation the place the minimal wage is €713 a month and an estimated 43 % of the labour pressure can’t afford to take a vacation, costs have soared.
“There’s a really giant variety of folks on this nation who work for lower than €1,000 a month,” mentioned Nikos Vettas, an economics educational who heads the influential IOBE assume tank.
“Greek incomes are decrease than common salaries within the EU, not least due to the disaster years,” he added, referring to the powerful austerity that was the worth of worldwide bailouts to keep away from the debt-stricken nation going bust. As such, the surge in costs for a lot of households had been a shock.
“We’re an economic system nonetheless in restoration, an economic system that has shrunk 25%,” Vettas mentioned. “Though it’s now rising quicker than many others in Europe thanks partly to tourism, the vitality disaster and the warfare in Ukraine are enormous threats that can not be ignored.”