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Tourism boom helps Greece face rising costs

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Tourism around the Mediterranean is booming. Helped by a strong US dollar and pent-up demand from Europeans to go on vacation, it’s a stronger comeback from the pandemic crisis than many had expected. Greece is on track to break its annual record for tourism revenue. Luxury vacations, especially island-hopping yacht excursions, performed best in Greece in 2022. Week-long vacation trips around the Aegean islands on yacht by Stelios Zompanakis have been in high demand all summer. And it was booked until October. “People after COVID (-19), after two years of frustration and probably, you know, putting money aside, they decided they should take a vacation,” Zompanakis explained. “I think the income from the budgets they were willing to spend has increased, which has also brought, let’s say, more quality guests to Greece and people asking for something more than just an all-inclusive experience. And that helped Greece a lot,” he added. A blessing for southern European economies, the rebound also eases the continent’s tilt towards recession caused by soaring energy prices, the war in Ukraine and the lingering disruption caused by the pandemic. Economists say southern Mediterranean countries produced great financial resilience over the summer. But instead of using this revenue windfall to help with longer-term improvements, Greece is using funds to help struggling businesses and households facing financial pressures from the cost of living and the energy crisis. In Athens’ historic Plaka district, tourists in October continue to fill the narrow streets, crowding around tourist shops to buy souvenirs. Vahan Apikian neatly arranges the decorative pillows outside his window for potential customers, happy that demand remained high until autumn, but he also expressed concern for the winter months.

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