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Greece expects to attract a record 17 million international visitors this year to help boost the country’s fragile economy.
International tourist arrivals at the country’s 16 largest airports have increased 9.3% to 6.9 million in the first seven months of 2013.
The Peloponnese airport of Kalamata has seen the biggest rise at more than 43%, followed by Chania and Santorini.
Marketing Greece, the newly formed organisation that represents the Greek tourism industry, says the country is on track to draw a record 17 million visitors by the end of the year, who will spend an estimated €11.1 billion (£9.3 billion).
New figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority reveal that the impact from tourism is “more robust than originally estimated”, with the gross domestic product (GDP) in Greece contracting 3.8% in the second quarter, lower than the 4.6% decline initially expected.
This marks the smallest year-to-year decrease in the Greek economy since 2010, lifting hopes of a return to growth in 2014 following six years of contraction.
The latest data reveals that tourism receipts, the country’s biggest revenue stream accounting for one in five jobs, are bouncing back, up by 15.5% in the first five months of this year as opposed to dropping about 5% in 2012.
Greek museums and archaeological sites are also reporting strong interest, with visitor numbers growing by 17% and 30.8% respectively in the first five months of the year over 2012.
The recovery is also expected to be assisted by a revision of VAT in the hospitality industry, which decreased from 23% to 13% from August 1.
The image of the country abroad continues to improve following a year of elections and strikes, aided further by instability in neighbouring destinations such as Egypt and Turkey.
Other recent developments include the opening of a new €4.2 million (£3.5 million) terminal at the port of Piraeus for Athens earlier this summer, while in April Ryanair opened its first base in the country in Crete.
Marketing Greece general manager Iossif Parsalis said: “After a long period of turbulence, instability and negative publicity, the latest official figures are very encouraging, confirming that the tourism industry remains of vital importance to the country’s economy.
“Greece is a safe and welcoming destination and Marketing Greece is fully committed to putting the country back on the tourist map.”
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