ATHENS Spending by tourists in Greece surged in June, central bank data showed on Monday, confirming forecasts that a record summer season could give the debt-laden country a welcome injection of foreign cash.
With domestic spending, investment and industrial production all in an austerity-driven slump, spending by foreign visitors is becoming the only growth driver for Greece's economy, which is expected to shrink 4.2 percent this year.
Tourism receipts, the country's biggest foreign-currency driver, rose 21 percent year-on-year to 1.59 billion euros in June, the first month of Greece's busy summer holiday season.
That brings total tourism receipts in the first half of the year to 3.32 billion euros, Bank of Greece figures showed, up 18 percent compared with the same period last year, when fears of a Greek euro zone exit kept tourists away.
The local tourism industry is currently forecasting a 10 percent rise in tourism receipts for the full year to 11 billion euros from a record 17 million visitors.
Hoteliers, restaurant owners and tourism businesses have slashed prices and upgraded services to weather the crisis and lure more visitors.
A better mix of visitors - including those who stay longer and spend more on average, like Russian tourists - is also helping.
The number of Russian visitors, who usually spend more than Germans or Britons, has risen 34 percent, official figures for the January to May period showed.
As a result of surging tourism receipts, Greece's current account surplus widened in June to 663 million euros ($884 million) from 73.1 million euros in the same month last year, the Bank of Greece said. ($1 = 0.7500 euros)
(Reporting by Harry Papachristou)