Mamma mia! Greece's travel and tourism sector is the main driver of its economy and its GDP contribution is almost double the global average

21 March, 2019

New data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) shows that the Greek travel and tourism sector grew at a rate of +6.9% in 2018 - over three and a half times the pace of its wider national economy, which grew by 2.0%.

The sector now represents more than one fifth (20.6%) of Greek GDP, almost double the global average, which stands at 10.4%. Put simply, this means that one in every five Euros that was spent in Greece last year came from the travel and tourism sector, worth EUR37.5 billion.

One quarter of all employment in Greece is based in travel and tourism – equivalent to just under one million jobs (988,600). In 2019, WTTC expects this figure to surpass the one million for the first time since its records began as the industry continues its growth and support’s Greece’s economic stability.

Even at the height of economic performance before the financial crisis, Greece still employed less people in the travel and tourism than they did in 2018 (2006: 934,000 jobs), indicating that not only has the sector’s economy recovered but it is now outperforming its previous peaks. The same is true for GDP contribution, which has never before amounted to 20% of total GDP.

The WTTC insights form part of its annual review of the economic impact and social importance of the sector. It also highlights that Greece benefitted from EUR18.5 billion in international visitor spend, representing 27.9% of total exports. Two-thirds of inbound Greek travel spend came from international visitors (66%), and one-third from domestic travel (34%) and its strong performance was driven by leisure spending, which comprised 94% of tourist spend compared to just 6% for business.

CHART - The leisure bias in the Greek market explains the significant seasonal variation in visitor arrivals that grow from April and peaks in AugustSource: CAPA - Centre for Aviation, EL. STAT and Bank of Greece

WTTC president & CEO Gloria Guevara describes Greece as “an exemplary case study of how valuable an asset travel and tourism can be when the government prioritises the sector,” especially supporting what was a national crisis. Minister of Tourism of the Hellenic Republic Elena Kountoura acknowledges the country’s tourism growth “supported profoundly the Greek economy in the most difficult years of the crisis”.

Greece’s long-term tourism strategy was initially implemented in 2015 and has clearly met and even potential excelled in creating thousands of new jobs, new business activity, new sources of income, and in mobilising new tourism investments. “With our growth plan for the next day, we intend to maintain Greece’s strong momentum in tourism and maximise its benefits for the local communities across Greece, acknowledging tourism’s immense value as a major driving force for employment, economic and social prosperity,” explains Mrs Kountoura.

In the article above, The Blue Swan Daily reported on the Greek Parliament's plan to ratify the extension of Athens International Airport SA’s concession to run Athens International Airport by a further 20 years. The agreement comes as the country’s main international gateway continues to record strong traffic growth, lifting passenger numbers high above levels recorded prior to Greece’s economic crisis.

Passenger traffic figures fell consistently in the Greek capital from 2009 to 2013 but on only one occasion (2012) did the decline get into double digit territory. Then the figure shot up in 2014 and by 2015 it had already exceeded the 2009 figure by almost two million passengers. Since then, passenger numbers have continued to climb consistently. Last year they rose +11.0% and this year it is currently growing at a rate of +9.8%.

CHART – Despite the slip in traffic between 2009 and 2013, passenger levels at Athens International Airport quickly reboundedSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and Athens International Airport reports