Greece depends on its picturesque islands, sunny beaches and ancient monuments for export revenue as it struggles to fix its fiscal woes and is implementing reforms prescribed by the EU and the IMF in exchange for bailouts.

After two years of sharp drops, tourism industry bodies have seen a pick-up in arrivals and revenues by up to 10 per cent this year. “Data confirm our estimates for a 10 per cent rise in arrivals,” Andreas Andreadis, head of the Greek Tourism Enterprises Association (Sete) told Reuters.

“We can only wait to see whether revenues also follow, as we expect.” About six million tourists travelled to Greece in the first seven months of the year, according to Sete and Athens International Airport data.

Tourism receipts grew 12.6 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2011, the central bank said on Thursday. Greece has lost market share in what have traditionally been its top markets, Germany and Britain. However, due to the financial crisis, the number of visitors from Balkan countries and Russia is growing, Andreadis said. Tourism accounts for about 16 per cent of Greece’s 230 billion euro economy and employs one in five people.

The industry has benefited from the political unrest in North Africa destinations but Andreadis warned sunny days would not last forever as rival countries, such as Egypt, would soon recover. “It is very important for the country that tourism maintains this growth trend in the following years,” he said, adding that the state had to push through much-needed reforms in the sector. “We have to activate the reflexes of this state, which in some cases can be very slow.”

Source: Athens News