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Athens – Greece's tourism champion of 2015

04 August 2015 / 18:08:23  GRReporter
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And the winners are ... Athens and Thessaloniki!

The negative climate, which overtook Greece in the first six months of the year, produced plenty of losers in tourism, yet some winners too. And the latter are none other than the two megapolises south and north: Athens and Thessaloniki.

During the boom years for Greek tourism – 2013-2014 – the country's two largest cities managed to jump in on the act of the resort centres only in the second half of 2014.

In a sense, resorts and cities seem to function as two opposite-phased generators.

Which is a fact allowing Greek tourism to minimize losses: when, for various reasons, one runs out of steam, e.g. the resorts, the other, e.g. Athens and Thessaloniki, feeds electricity to the Greek tourist market. Or the other way round.

The situation during the first six months of this year around the talks between the Greek government and the country's creditors, led to a shift in tourism's centre of gravity from the south Aegean to the northwest. So, while until last year it was in the triangle formed by the islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes, and Kos, this year it has shifted to the powerful poles of Athens-Thessaloniki-Mykonos-Santorini.

The majority of popular tourist destinations have reported either stagnation or decline compared with last year, while both megapolises and the cosmopolitan island pair of Mykonos-Santorini seem unaffected by the headwinds.

The gap between winners and losers widens even further this year when it comes to areas frequented mostly by Greeks: these are seeing a real decline in visits.

This picture is corroborated by data of GBR Consulting for the Greek hotel market in the second quarter.

The gap between tourist regions is already evident from the data regarding the visits of foreign tourists. The odds are that Athens will be the undisputed winner this year, with a 24% growth in visits of foreign tourists compared to the second quarter of 2014. This result is largely due to swelling numbers of American tourists – on the back of the US dollar's rising against the euro.

For the same period, Thessaloniki reports results roughly at last year's levels (-0.1%) while the rest of the country has seen a decline in foreign tourist visits of 0.5%.

On the other hand, the island of Crete has welcomed 2.8% fewer foreign tourists, while the Ionian islands have seen a growth of 3.9%. Mykonos and Santorini have again this year lived a life of their own, completely unaffected by the rough climes and enjoying a 17.9% increase of foreign tourists.

The opening gap becomes quite striking if one compares the performance of Athens and Thessaloniki hotels with that of hotels in resort centres.

Thus, according to GBR Consulting data, hotels in Athens have reported a 7.6% growth in revenue per available room (RevPAR), while those in Thessaloniki reported even better results of a 12.3% growth in the second quarter compared to the same period of 2014 .

Against this backdrop, resort hotels present a different picture: there is a slight, 1.3%, RevPAR increase for the same second quarter.

The freeze in reservations in early July, the restrictions on bank operations, this year's collapse of domestic tourism and the tax burden agreed with creditors, have all acted as chilly winds on the domestic hotel market.

According to GBR's survey, hotel owners in Athens and Thessaloniki remain optimistic because they expect a significant third quarter increase in average room rates.

Conversely, resort hotel owners are crestfallen due to expectations of a significant drop in demand and occupancy in the third quarter.

Tags: Hotels Greek tourism downturn growth Athens Thessaloniki resort centers
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