The naysayers were plenty. If it weren’t the financial crisis, it would have been the refugee crisis, or front page news headlines of destitute Greeks waiting in line for pension payments. Others saw the Brexit vote as a death knell for the big arrivals from the UK— second only to German arrivals in Greece.
But they were all proved wrong as statistics were released by the country’s Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), as reported in Greece’s leading daily newspaper Kathimerini.
While unemployment still remains the highest in the European Union at just over 22%, a quarter of a million new jobs were reportedly created— over 82% of them or 210,000 in the tourism sector and it is estimated that by the end of the year, an increase of 6% will be recorded in tourist arrivals over 2015.
From January to August 2016, 753,000 more tourists arrived in the country compared to the same period last year.
SETE estimates that when all is said and done and figures are counted and released by the end of the year, Greece will have welcomed 27.5 million people this year— almost 5 million more than in 2015 when over 23.5 million tourists visited.
Of course, not all news was good. Greek islands impacted most by the refugee crisis did see major decreases in tourist arrivals.
While Crete saw the biggest increase in arrivals— almost 11% over last year, the islands of Kos, Samos and hardest-hit Mytilene say major declines in arrivals.
Kos experienced a 15.1% decline while Samos (down 26.1%) and Mytilene (down 59.5%) were hit the hardest, primarily because of negative news from last year’s refugee crisis. These three islands were the epicenter of refugee arrivals.