2022 was a very good year for Greek tourism that brought an air of optimism to hoteliers, and to other entrepreneurs of tourism businesses after 2 years of lockdowns, 2020 and 2021, because of the covid-19 pandemic.
There are many who compare 2020, 2021 and 2022 with the record year 2019 for Greek tourism which was also the last one before the covid-19 pandemic. It is considered as a stigma to monitor the rate of return to normality in terms of tourism, but it is something that can also disorient if we rely only on it.
The prospects for Greek tourism are promising based on the first data we have been given. More specifically, tourist traffic increased by 121.8% in the first 8 months of 2022, while tourism earnings increased by 92.1% in relation to the same period in 2021. The rapid increase in revenues, according to data from the Bank of Greece, is due to an increase in earnings from residents of the European Union by 64.8%, and from residents outside the European Union by 147.7%. The Greek islands were in the center of the attention, as there were many foreign visitors to all of them, without this meaning that there was no tourism in other regions of Greece.
Also, according to the tentative data of Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) on passenger traffic at Greek airports, during the period between January and July 2022, the total number of passengers increased by 269.1% compared to the corresponding period of 2021.
In addition, the data we have both from Athens International Airport and the 14 regional airports of our country, show significant increases in arrivals from abroad. More specifically, at the Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" in July 2022 we had 29% more arrivals from Germany, 15% from France, 4% from the United Kingdom, 39% from Switzerland, 19% from Israel, 257% from Serbia and 177% from Turkey compared to July 2019.
In terms of regional airports, we had 21% more visitors from Britain in Rhodes, 24.6% more Germans and 46.4% more French compared to 2019. In Santorini, we had 126% increase in arrivals from France, 64.3% from the United Kingdom and 77.5% from Germany. In Chania, the increase of British visitors reached 43.2%, Germans 78.3% and Poles 33.8% compared to 2019.
Moreover, the data we have about inbound travelers in Western Greece is quite encouraging: in Aktio there was an increase of 40.4% from the United Kingdom, 36.2% from Italy and 30.6% from Germany, while in Corfu we had a 99.3% increase from Italy, 29.7 % from Germany and 15% from the United Kingdom.
At the same time, according to data from the Hellenic Ports Association, the number of pre-bookings of cruise ships for 2022 in Greece reached 4,939 ships. In 2021, a total of 2,064 cruise ships had arrived in our country, while in 2019 their number was 3,979.
Of course, this success should not make us overly happy, as other Mediterranean countries which are our “competitors” had a similar response in the tourism sector. 2022 was considered as a "special" year from which we certainly cannot draw definitive conclusions for the following years. The large number of tourists from many foreign countries expressed the world's need for travel and entertainment after 2 years of confinement. But this should not make us rest on our laurels, as it shows the world's demand but not our potentials to offer as a country so that this influx continues and increases.
It is clear that a strategy should be drawn up in order to create conditions for the sustainable development of tourism businesses not only for 2023, but also for the following years.
Data that characterized 2022 and is uncertain for 2023
So, it is necessary to carry out a substantial analysis of the current situation in Greek tourism, in order to draw up a strategy that emphasizes on the improvement of the Greek tourist product, especially after some irregularities recorded in 2022, such as excessive charges in dining areas and a general wave of high prices experienced by tourists on some Greek islands. Such irregularities undermine Greek destinations and limit the number of tourists who wish to return the following years.
It is a fact that there is an effort which is already being made, and should be strengthened, in order to increase tourism throughout our country, throughout the year. It is a permanent bet, which we can and must win.