The number of British holidaymakers heading to Greece has increased 29.3% in 2015, making the UK the country’s second largest source market for tourists.
That was the message from Greek politician Elena Kountoura, the country’s recently elected Alternate Minister for Tourism, who was speaking on day one of the 2015 ABTA conference in Costa Navarino.
“Greece is extremely fortunate to have been a destination favourite with British holidaymakers for many years,” she said addressing delegates.
“The UK is one of our most significant sources markets, the second biggest for Greece this current season, and we could not have done this without your continued support.”
Greece has welcomed a record 25 million tourists in 2015 compared to 22 million in 2014, despite the country’s well-documented economic crisis, revealed Kountoura.
The British ambassador to Greece, John Kittner, who spoke after the minister, described the Greeks as “resilient”, and said “tourism has to be the country’s future”.
“The number of tourists to Greece has grown massively and don’t underestimate how much the Greeks understand the loyalty and faith of the British tourists,” he said.
Kittner also called on the UK travel trade to “continue to look after the young kids when they get into difficulty”, referring to the sometimes troublesome first-time teenage travellers to Greece.
“This is a responsibility ABTA members must share with us [the embassy],” he said.
ABTA convention chat in the afternoon sessions turned to the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on Greece’s tourism industry given huge numbers of migrants are arriving on many Greek islands daily.
However, some of the UK travel industry’s most influential players, including Tui UK & Ireland managing director Nick Longman and Monarch Group CEO Andrew Swaffield, both downplayed this issue, claiming the effect on consumer sentiment was marginal.
Longman described the problem as “short term” and Swaffield said he was “fairly relaxed” about its impact.
The Monarch boss also talked up the opportunities to get more Brits visiting The Westin Resort Costa Navarino in Messinia where the conference is being staged.
“With [UK] airlines already flying to [nearby] Kalamata there is potential to sell more package holidays,” he said.