Greece’s Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias says the effort to extend the country’s tourism season has been successful. Talking with Skai Radio last week, Kikilias also talked about extending direct flights from the U.S. to Athens. This, and other news, points to a brighter future for an industry nearly decimated by the pandemic.
Kikilias equated Greece’s tourism sector to heavy industry in other countries, saying it supports primary production and Greek products, the commercial world, and small and medium-sized family businesses. The minister has been on a marathon run promoting Greece internationally.
Meanwhile, a number of Greek islands are operating at near peak capacity in accommodating the record-breaking influx of international travelers. Earlier in the year, experts predicted that Greece would see visitor numbers approach previous levels. Apparently, their prophecies have materialized.
This report from Greek Reporter tells of Naxos arrivals by ship rising by 200 percent in May compared to 2019 and over 94 percent in June compared to 2021. However, local businesses here in Crete report stagnant or declining revenues largely because cruise passengers tend to spend a lot less than more traditional visitors.
One prominent optician and entrepreneur in Heraklion’s pedestrian zone told us the season is a disaster monetarily. Several shops that were once thriving have now either closed for good or relocated. Many others have closeout signs or deep discount offers in their windows. The foot traffic is here, but there are few shopping bags in the hands of tourists.
Somehow, the rosy picture being painted by the Mitsotakis administration just does not add up. This National Herald story speaks of skyrocketing revenues, but on the street, nobody seems to be spending (see Instagram). Every five-star resort on a beach in Crete is now packed with all-inclusive guests, but this niche of travelers is notorious for cheap-skate tendencies. After all, meals and drinks, entertainment, and the beach are free at these resorts. And the same is true for cruise travelers.
The reports are conflicting. For instance, this Ekathimerini story seems to indicate Airbnb rentals on the rise, especially in Crete. These tourists usually spend more since all their food and entertainment is not on the tab. Crete bookings are up from 2021, but there are thousands of these rentals still unbooked as I type this. In fairness, Minister Kikilias says on his Facebook that there is still a lot of work to do with the season only half over.
For Crete, this is highly unusual. The screenshot above reveals a highly unusual situation where booking one week in advance, over 1,000 units are available, many of which are with so-called “Superhosts,” the best of the best. The areas where many of these rentals are usually 110% booked. A luxury loft in Platanias for 159 euros per night?
The Greece 2022 tourism season is at its peak now, so the final analysis on success or failure is still up in the air. Marketing pros here say everything is looking up. And news, the Wyndham Grand Crete Mirabello Bay reopened following an extensive renovation project is one hint investors are positive about Crete’s future. In other development news, regional efforts to ramp up alt-tourism also point to better days to come.