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Tourist numbers in Greece disappoint, dip to 20pct of last year's levels

In the midst of the summer season and tourism is doing considerably worse-than-expected, threatening to derail the government's economic plans for the year.

After the celebrations launched by the Greek government for the opening of the tourism industry and the promotion of the country as a safe destination, initial unofficial data shows a disappointing performance for the sector.

In the midst of the summer season and tourism is doing considerably worse-than-expected, threatening to derail the government's economic plans for the year.

Before tourism opened its doors to global visitors in May, government officials were privately saying that they targetted half the 30 million travellers that visited Greek shores last year. At the same time, tourism sector officials were hoping that a third of last year's numbers would be reached in 2020 (in the best-case scenario), while in recent weeks evidence appeared that 20-25 percent of the 2019 numbers would be reached this year. This figure has now slipped to 20 percent and could head lower.

"The situation depends on the area, but the estimate now is that we are close to 20 percent," a senior tourism official told Business Daily.

Significant markets to the tourism industry remain off limits, such as the US, and are unlikley to reopen this year. The rise in confirmed coronavirus cases in Greece weighs on the hospitality sector which had high hopes from Greeks travelling domestically for holidays. A decision by Britain to put in a 14-day quarantine travellers returning from Spain, may have a positive impact on Greece. Market officials believe that this could push some travellers to Greece but the numbers are seen as being small. 

Steps by the government to reopen Greek ports to cruise ships on August 1 are likely to have a small impact as most cruise operators have suspended operations for the whole of 2020. 

Official data on tourism is not expected for another month, but the trends are clear.

President of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, Grigoris Tassios, says that the average occupancy rate at the country's hotels is currently around 25 percent.

In comments to Parapolitika 90.1 Fm: "You realize that the percentage is very small, and we are entering August - there is a small mobility from August 5 to 20 from the internal market, but even that is not enough to cover half of June, the whole of July. A season that never really started."

"It is a Covid year and when you see the epidemiological data constantly changing for the worse, I am referring to a global level but in recent days concerns are also growing in Greece, you cannot do business. We did our duty when the government asked us to go ahead, open our hotels and wait for some arrivals and cooperated on the health protocols."

Stelios Bouras

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