Germans comprise the single largest market for tourism to Greece. The Greek government’s tourism promoter, the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) is targeting 10 German cities at the moment with a roadshow to highlight the country’s attractions.

The initiative is part of efforts to promote year-round tourism to Greece.

Using Expipoint, a new private company that describes itself as a communication tool for the travel industry and personnel in it, GNTO started the roadshow in the first half of November. It went to Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Münster, Cologne, Aachen, Munich, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Mannheim and Stuttgart.

Expipoint aims to network the various actors in the tourism industry, such as travel agencies, airlines, national promoters and their personnel. Expipoint describes itself as “an internet platform where we connect travel agents and travel partners (hotels, airlines etc.). By giving them the opportunity to connect by in-house designed digital communication tools, our goal is to establish a direct communication between them.”

About 30 travel bureaux took part in the recent German roadshow.

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In July, German travellers vacationed mainly in Greece, Spain and Turkey.

Meanwhile the Greek government has reported that the tourism comeback this year exceeded all expectations and that it’s targeting pre-Corona numbers for next year, although the pandemic remains a risk, with special concern over the new Omicron variant from South Africa.

At the start of the year prospects looked bleak. Greece opened up late in the middle of May. But hoteliers and tavern hosts were compensated in the second half of the year with an unexpected visitor surge and a “golden autumn”.

The Greek summer looked like not wanting to end this year. Whereas the season used to end in October, many travel providers and vacation airlines this year extended their Greece programmes to the end of November.

Actually a reason for the Greek industry to enter 2022 confidently.

“This season went well and the prospects for next year are even better,” Greece’s Tourism Minister Vasilis Kikilias said.

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The new season is to open already in March, two months earlier than this year.

But a big question mark hangs over all this optimism: How will the pandemic develop?

No one knows the risks better than Kikilias. Before he took over the tourism ministry at the end of August he managed the Corona strategy of the government as health minister.

In summer it still looked as though Greece had the pandemic under control. At the end of June the seven-day incidence dropped to 25. Meanwhile it’s at 461.

Since a week now the German Robert Koch Institute, which monitors the disease, has again rated Greece as a high-risk area. That’s a damper on travel enthusiasm.

Yet the Greek tourism industry hopes to link to this year’s success. The comeback was better than expected. The Bank of Greece, the central bank, reports that in the first nine months 11.6 million visitors came, almost 90 per cent more than in the crisis year 2020.

READ MORE: World Travel and Tourism Council honours Greece’s tourism

The largest group were the Germans with 2.1 million. The boom even accelerated in October. The number of arrivals by air was 127 per cent more than the previous year.

Some Greek islands already report records. In October Santorini received 55 per cent more holidaymakers than in its previous best year 2019. Mykonos also reported more visitors in autumn than before the pandemic.

Preliminary calculations show that Greece could expect 19 million foreign visitors this year, 60 per cent more than last year.

It’s especially due to the tourism rebound that this year Greece is one of the growth champions in Europe. The EU forecasts 7.1 per cent growth in its Gross Domestic Product this year. It expects only Ireland, Croatia and Hungary to grow their economies. Independent analysts are still more optimistic: The ratings agency Scope and the Bank of America expect growth of 8.6 per cent, the Citigroup even 8.8 per cent.

Not only visitor numbers are growing better than expected, so is their spending. The central bank reports that this year every tourist spent 632 euros (AUD 998), compared to 535 euros (AUD 845) in 2019.

The rise reflects a trend to longer vacations and more expensive hotels. After the lockdowns it appears that many holidaymakers are indulging themselves in longer and more luxurious breaks. That mostly benefits the high-priced hospitality sectors.

The Greek National Bank reported a 139% increase in tourism earnings on 2020 in the first three quarters. Until the end of September 8.76 billion euros (AUD 14 billion) came into the country, more than the eight billion (AUD 13 billion) targeted for the whole year. It could amount to almost 12 billion euros (AUD 19 billion) by the end of the year.

That’ll please Greece’s Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, because tourism is a major growth engine. In good years it generates about a fifth of Gross National Product.

Greece’s growth prospects for next year are also good. The EU Commission expects 5.2 per cent. With that, the country could get back to the pre-crisis level in its economic performance.

Whether these prognoses hold depends largely on tourism. The president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Yiannis Retsos suggests that next year Greece could again reach the 2019 all-time record. The industry had expected that at the earliest in 2023.

The German industry’s leading travel seller, Tui assumes that the next summer will “wholly or nearly” reach the pre-crisis level of 2019. Greece bookings for 2022, like in this year, are among the destinations most-booked by Germans.

Industry experts see in this a success of the Greek tourism concept. “The post-Corona focus is on individualisation of the holiday, on leisure activities and on less-known, as yet unexplored places,” says Ioanna Dretta, CEO of Marketing Greece, a non-profit initiative of the Greek Tourism Confederation and the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels.

For that purpose she sees Greece well equipped with its resorts, boutique hotels and family-owned guest houses and its great variety of landscapes and culture.
But Corona remains the biggest threat. Due to the current evolution of infections, demand has dropped somewhat, says Christoph Führer, manager of the round trip and group travel specialised provider, Leitner Reisen. Germany’s second biggest travel provider DER Touristik also sees some decline in bookings caused by the dramatically rising Corona infections. “People are still in a wait-and-see mode,” says their central Europe head, Ingo Burmester.

In addition to the current general increase in infections, the new virus variant that has turned up in South Africa is causing concern. Greece has sharpened restrictions. In retail trading and outdoor hospitality people, have to be vaccinated, recovered or freshly clean-tested, in indoor gastronomy vaccinated and recovered apply for entry.

For those older than 60 years vaccination certificates become invalid seven months after vaccination unless they’ve had a booster shot.
“Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate,“ is the mantra of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. With that he hopes not only to save the Christmas business but also the 2022 travel season.

There will “certainly” be no new lockdown, the government assures. But what is certain in this pandemic?