Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
As the most internationalized subsector and one of the major industries of the Greek economy, tourism is a strong earner of foreign exchange. The warm climate, the long, scenic Mediterranean coastline, the many significant archaeological and historical sites, the traditional hospitality of Greeks, and improvements in the local infrastructure have increased the number of foreign travelers attracted to Greece. The tourist residence capacity has grown also. Between 1970 and 1990, the number of beds in tourist accommodations increased from 119,000 to 438,000. Of this residential capacity, 84 percent is located in hotels, of which Greece had 4,659 in 1992. However, the share of motels, furnished apartments, and guest houses has been increasing over the last decade.
Tourist visits followed a moderate growth trend in the 1980s. In the last two decades, Greece's traditional competitors, Spain and Portugal, have been joined by Turkey and the other Balkan countries with beaches on the Adriatic and Black seas. Total nights spent by foreigners in Greece were 30.6 million in 1981 and rose to 34.5 million in 1989. Since the mid-1980s, tourist arrivals have generally fluctuated between 8 million and 9 million persons per year, but by 1994 this number exceeded 10 million. Despite long efforts by Greek governments to extend the tourist season throughout the year, Greek tourism remains concentrated in the summer months. In 1990-91, for example, three-quarters of tourist arrivals took place in the five-month period between May and September.
The vast majority of tourists visiting Greece are European. In 1989 some 92 percent of tourists were European, compared with 88 percent in 1981. In 1991 the largest numbers of tourists in Greece came from Germany and Britain, which together accounted for over 40 percent of the total. Visitors from Yugoslavia, Italy, France, and the Netherlands added another 24 percent. The share of United States tourists in the total dropped significantly, however, from 4.4 percent in 1981 to 2.3 percent in 1989.
The major archeological sites of Greece remain a strong attraction for tourists. In 1990 the most visited sites were the Acropolis of Athens (1.4 million visitors), the palace of Knossos on Crete (706,306 visitors), the temple of Apollo at Delhi (590,736 visitors), the Epidaurus Theater in the Peloponnesus (540,596 visitors), the palace and treasure of Mycenae in the Peloponnesus (507,161 visitors), and the Acropolis of Lindos on the island of Rhodes (419,187 visitors).
Foreign-exchange earnings from tourism have been increasing since 1983. In 1992 tourist earnings amounted to US$3.3 billion, showing an average annual increase of 5.5 percent since 1983. Tourist receipts have risen at a considerably faster rate than tourist night-stays, indicating that the Greek policy of upgrading the quality of tourist visits has been rewarded by increased per capita spending. In 1992 the amount of foreign exchange earned from tourism equaled 55 percent of Greek merchandise exports for that year, accounting for almost 20 percent of total Greek exports of goods and services.
Besides extending the tourist season, policy makers have sought to promote tourism in the north and west of the country and to enhance luxury tourism. Infrastructure projects for maritime tourism, such as the increased construction of marinas, have been a major priority in recent years. Investment incentives similar to those offered to manufacturing are also extended to tourist projects. In awarding grants and subsidies, state policy has favored Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace, and the eastern Aegean Islands. Support rates also depend on the type of project; luxury hotels and therapeutic treatment spas, sports, and winter tourism resorts now receive preferential treatment.
Data as of December 1994
NOTE: The information regarding Greece on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Greece Tourism information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Greece Tourism should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.