Greece has revealed ambitious plans to double its UK tourist numbers by 2017.
Adding more air capacity from the UK, prolonging the country’s holiday season, developing more niche tourism packages and improving tourism-related infrastructure are just some of the key measures the country’s recently elected Alternate Minister for Tourism, Elena Kountoura, is rolling out in a bid to achieve this target.
“In the year to August we have already seen a 25% increase in arrivals from the British market year on year and we hope the figure for the entire year will be even higher,” Kountoura told Travel Daily UK at this week’s World Travel Market (WTM) in London.
“We are very satisfied with this given Greece has gone through difficult times, but I think we can double the number of British arrivals to Greece over the next two years.”
From January to August 2015, 1.8 million UK travellers visited Greece compared to 1.4 million in the same period in 2014, while travel receipts from this market jumped a staggering 33.5%.
The latest figures for 2016 reveal forward bookings to Greece for next summer, starting in April, have already increased 4% year on year.
“Our four-year tourism development strategy is starting to show results, but the real evidence of its success will come in 2017 to 2018,” said Kountoura.
“Tourism is very important to our economy – around 18 to 20% of our GDP – and we are focused on investing in new developments, infrastructure and better quality services.
“It’s also part of our strategy to prolong the holiday season, open up new markets, and add new flights [to both new and existing markets].”
While 60% of holidays to Greece in 2015 were taken in the peak third quarter of July, August and September, the country’s strategy to increase passenger numbers during the shoulder seasons is beginning to pay dividends. March 2015 witnessed the biggest hike in passenger numbers, up 254% year on year, according to figures by British analyst GfK.
Kountoura said she was in talks with several airlines with a view to them offering more year-round flights between the UK and Greece, initially extending the season to span March to November and eventually, to all 12 months of the year.
In the meantime, carriers including Aegean Airlines and Jet2 are introducing new routes and increasing capacity between the UK and Greece while Ryanair recently announced plans to open a new base at Corfu from April 2016 with one aircraft based on the island serving 11 new European routes.
Kountoura acknowledged that Sterling’s strength against the Euro was helping to simulate more British business to Greece.
“We have much to offer [the British market],” she said. “We are competitive, offering visitors good value for money, which is very important, and secondly, we offer good quality of service.
“The UK is one of our most significant sources markets, the second biggest for Greece this current season, and we are very grateful to our British friends for their support.”
Kountoura said she wanted to get British holidaymakers to experience more of what Greece has to offer by visiting new destinations and taking part in new activities.
The tourism authorities are therefore working on new campaigns to promote niche experiences, from skiing to wellness tourism. City breaks to Athens, which have increased 35% this year, are also being promoted to Brits who want to shop, visit museums and archaeological sites and hit the beach all in one three- to four-day holiday, said Kountoura.
In 2014, Greece welcomed a total of 22 million international arrivals.
“In 2015 we are going to close the year at around 26 million,” Kountoura revealed.
For the first eight months of the year (January to August), Greece welcomed 18 million arrivals, up 11% on the 15.3 million received during the same period in 2014.
“In 2016 we expect an even better year, hitting new records,” Kountoura concluded.