Greece is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. With over sixty inhabited islands, historic sites that span four millennia, idyllic beaches and towering mountain ranges there is a wide variety of tourist attractions in Greece to explore. And despite the debt crisis with credit downgrades and protest by day, Greece as a travel destination is as popular as it has ever been.
Greece is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, ranking in the world's top 20 countries. According to the Greek Ministry of Tourism, the nation received about 20 million visitors in 2013, a large number for a small country of 11 million. Visitors are drawn to the country's beaches and reliable sunny summer weather, its nightlife, historical sites and natural beauty.
Over 90% of visitors who come to Greece come from other European countries, although in recent years there have been growing numbers of tourists from other world regions. The vast majority of visitors arrive during the tourist season, which is April through October. Peak season is July through August, and most of the tourists and tourism industry are concentrated in Crete, the Dodecanese, Cyclades, and Western Greek Islands, and to a lesser extent the Peloponnese and the Halkidiki peninsula in Macedonia. There are still many rewarding areas in the country free of large-scale tourism.
Many first-time visitors arrive in Greece with specific images in mind and are surprised to discover a country with such regional and architectural diversity. The famous whitewashed homes and charming blue-domed churches only characterize a specific region of the country (the Cyclades Islands). Architecture varies greatly from one region to the next depending on the local history. Visitors will find Neoclassical architecture in the cities of Ermoupolis and Nafplion, Ottoman-influenced buildings in Grevená and Kozáni, whitewashed Cycladic homes on the island of Paros, and pastel-coloured baroque homes and churches on Corfu. The nation's terrain is just as varied as its architectural heritage: idyllic beaches, towering mountain ranges, wine-producing valleys, vast stretches of olive orchards in the south, and lush forests in the north. Greece's historical sights are just as varied; the country is littered with just as many medieval churches and castles as classical ruins and temples.
Investing in the Greek Tourism Sector
With more than 16,000 kilometers of coastline, more than 6,000 islands and islets, and a well-established tourism industry, Greece presents a prime investment opportunity in the Tourism sector. The country is one of the top global tourist destinations for sun and beach holidays, and also provides attractive propositions for year-round themed holidays. The competitive advantages of Greece, such as rich cultural heritage, natural beauty and geographical variety, have been attracting significant tourism investments in recent years, thus further strengthening Greece’s image as an ideal destination both for holidays and tourism-related investments.
Even during the recent crisis, the tourist industry in Greece has been one of the mainstays of economic growth and employment, with a continued growth in tourist arrivals and revenues driven mainly by:
The determined efforts of the Greek tourist authorities and associations to upgrade the tourist product offering. The development of new key markets such as Russia, Israel, Turkey and China.
The tourist industry is currently undergoing a major strategic improvement initiative, focusing on the expansion of the tourist period, the attraction of higher-value tourist segments (High-net-worth, affluent), the increase of average daily spending and the opening of new tourist markets.
The Meetings and Incentives tourism market is significant both for its own value added and for providing an excellent lead-in to other forms of tourism, introducing a large number of delegates and conference-goers to new destinations which they may afterwards prefer for their summer holidays or city break.
Until the recent past, Greece lacked infrastructure development related to conference centers and meeting facilities that are readily available for hosting large scale, globally attractive conferences. Since the 2004 Olympics, the country has significantly improved its related infrastructure and currently offers a number of meeting facilities across its main cities and destinations, ranging from large venues and theatres to smaller hotels and conference centers.
Given the strong competitive advantages of Greece for MICE tourism and the desire of several Greek cities to develop this type of tourism, there are still significant opportunities for investors wishing to capitalize on the sector’s untapped potential and future growth. Such investments are strongly supported by the Investment Incentives Law, and when combined with the country’s impressive hotel infrastructure and excellent climate, can position Greece as one of the premier meeting and incentive destinations in the European continent by attracting a significant amount of conferences from large international companies and associations, thus yielding lucrative returns on capital invested.
Tourism in Greece traces its roots to the ancient times.
Cultural exchange took place between the Greek colonies of Magna Graeca and the young Roman Republic before Rome's rise to dominance of the Western Mediterranean. When Greece was annexed by the Roman Empire centuries later, the cultural exchange that started between the two civilization triggered as a result a large number of Romans visiting the famous centers of Greek philosophy and science, such as Athens, Corinth and Thebes, partly because Greece had become a province of the Roman Empire and Greeks were granted Roman citizenship.
Tourism in modern-day Greece started to flourish in the 1960s and 1970s, in what became known as mass tourism. During that time, large-scale construction projects for hotels and other such facilities were undertaken and the country saw an increase in international tourists over the years. International events such as the 2004 Summer Olympic Games and the Eurovision Song Contest 2006, both held in Athens, greatly helped to boost tourism in the country, while large-scale nationally-funded cultural infrastructure such as the New Acropolis Museum also contributed to the flow of tourists in the country. Thessaloniki will be European youth capital in 2014.
Conference tourism, targeted at academic, business, or cultural markets is a cornerstone of the Greek national tourism policy. As a result, the Greek government, with strong support from local authorities, has been offering lucrative cash grants, leasing and employment subsidies and tax allowances to establish new conference facilities and expand existing ones. In a recent report in Meeting and Incentive Travel, Greece was ranked eighth in the world in overnight stays for conferences.
Most of the country, including all coastal areas, enjoys a so-called Mediterranean climate, almost identical to much of California. Summers are hot and dry with a 7-month period of near-constant sunshine generally from April until November. The remainder of the year is characterized by a relatively cold, rainy period which generally starts sometime in November and lasts until late March or early April. Sporadic rains do occur during the dry season, but they tend to be rare, quick showers. The country’s Ionian Coast and Ionian Islands tend to receive more annual precipitation than the rest of the country. The islands in the southern Aegean and parts of the southeastern mainland are the driest areas of the country.