Thursday, 27 April 2017

GREECE: German Tourists Flocking In To Greece

Tour operators assure that German tourists are regaining their trust and plan ahead for their holidays with Greece being a top destination choice this season.

The situation is very different from last year when tourists had been scared by the terrorist attacks in Paris, Istanbul and Brussels and were hesitant to book holiday packages.

"The willingness of citizens to travel abroad this year is great in all our markets despite the political and economic uncertainty that exists," says Peter Fankhauser, head of the Thomas Cook group and adds that reservations have increased by 10% compared to last year.

The same sentiment prevails in the announcements from Tui and DER Touristik while,baccording to the GfK Consumers' Institute, by the end of March bookings had increased by 5% having reached 64% of last year's total already.

However, last minute bookings are still open, mainly in July and it remains unclear whether reservations will reach or exceed 2015, a record year for tourism.

Greece is the country that attracts many holidaymakers, continuing thus the tradition of recent years. The popular destination benefits from the unstable political situation in Turkey. "At present, tourists are very skeptical about Turkey, and reservations are lower in 2017 than last year," said DER Touristik.

In particular TS, Jahn Reisen, Dertour, Meier's Weltreisen and ADAC are satisfied with the bookings. "Reservations for all destinations are up by single digits," says Rene Hertz, head of DER Touristik for Central Europe.

Having said all this, Spain remains the top preference of Germans. At the same time, tourism destinations in Germany are also greatly expanding, while Egypt is starting to experience a new period of rebirth, as 2016 was a very difficult year for the country and only 654,000 Germans visited it.

The consequences of the recent terrorist attack on the Coptic Christian minority with 40 dead and 110 injured remain unknown.

"Terrorism has an impact on tourist destinations and on travelers' behavior, but it does not affect travel," the FUR Institute reports.

Greek tourism officials are counting on a rise in demand from UAE travellers this year to support growth plans for the sector.

Visitor numbers from the UAE to the Greek capital of Athens jumped 20 per cent from 2015 to 2016, Elena Kountoura, the country’s tourism minister, told The National ahead of the opening of Arabian Travel Market in Dubai on Sunday.

She did not disclose exact figures.

The country now expects exponential growth in travel between the two countries since Emirates began operating a Dubai-Athens-Newark route in March.

The United States is home to the largest overseas Greek community in the world.

Mrs Kountoura said the Emirates flight was "very successful and the best flight they have right now for occupancy, beyond all expectations".

The increase in tourists to Greece from the UAE and wider Mena region, which showed 55 per cent growth year-on-year in 2016, is a promising development for a country beleaguered for almost seven years by a rolling crisis over its €321 billion (Dh1.26 trillion) debt pile, owed to domestic and international creditors, including other European Union member states.

"We expect 30 million visitors in 2017 assuming everything stays like it is," said Mrs Kountoura.

One million direct and indirect jobs

Tourism is worth 20 per cent of our GDP with one million direct and indirect jobs. It is hugely important to us and we have focused on extending the season, promoting different sectors like cultural tourism and religious tourism, pushed to open new markets, like the UAE and China.

Mrs Kountoura said that there was the possibility of meaningful cooperation on the tourism sector between Greece and the UAE.

Dubai has done an amazing job adding attractions and high-end tourists. Greece is known as a value-for-money destination where you can get great deals, and the cost of living is not high.

We were one of the first countries to agree to participate in Expo 2020 because we see the chance of working together. It is a totally different market as our target groups are not the same, we offer a cultural and ancient history combined with an island experience.

The ebullience of Greece’s tourism market, where the UK is third on its list of visitor numbers, could be tempered by the UK’s Brexit decision but is sanguine over the effects.

It has been suggested the no-frills operators such as Ryanair and easyJet may have to leave the UK if they still want to ply their trade in Europe.

We have spoken to UK businesses and they believe everybody want to make a successful business,said Mrs Kountoura. I am not going to second guess complicated conversations but focus on the positive.

The number of inbound tourists from China to Greece in the summer season of 2017 is expected to rise significantly, according to data. The projection is confirmed by a notable increase in tax free sales in Greece in the first 3-month period of 2017 compared to 2016.

A mere 150,000 Chinese tourists visited Greece last year, a number that is estimated to be much higher this year. Data released by Premiere Tax Free Greece show that visitors from China are choosing Greece as a destination, reoccupying first spot among the nationalities, as 31% of all Tax Free transactions was covered by Chinese in the first 3 months of 2017.

Chinese national spend an average of 330 euros with a preference to jewellery and clothing.

Russia, FYROM and the US choose our country with great fervour and contribute to a 60% rise in profits via Tax Free transactions in Athens, Rhodes and Thessaloniki”, said Aggeliki Kalogiannidou, marketing manager of Premiere Tax Free Greece.

She went on to add that purchases were up by 109% for Chinese, 65% by Russians, 87% by Americans and 37% by FYROM and Israel, a 200% rise compared to the first 3-month term of 2016.

Athens Tax Free is on top accounting for 52% of Tax Free transactions, while Thessaloniki came in second. It should be noted that two Chinese cultural exhibitions are scheduled to officially open on Thursday, April 27 in the framework of Sino-Hellenic cultural exchange year at the Byzantine and Christian Museum.