ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s tourism revenues may plunge up to 15 percent this year, an industry official said on Wednesday, as holidaymakers spooked by concerns the country may leave the euro zone switch to other destinations.
Accounting for about 15 percent of output and one in five jobs, tourism is vital for Greece’s economy. But the gloomy forecast punctures any hopes that the country’s ancient monuments and sun-drenched islands might be able to pull the recession-mired economy out of crisis.
“We will see a considerable drop in tourism income,” the head of Greece’s tourism enterprises association SETE, Andreas Andreadis, told Reuters. “A negative number...something like 10-15 percent.”
In 2011, revenues rose by 10 percent to 10.5 billion euros.
About 1.5 million more tourists visited the country then, largely due to lower fares and political turmoil in rival holiday destinations Egypt and Tunisia, bringing the total number of visitors to a record high of 16.5 million.
But speculation about a Greek euro exit following an inconclusive election last month, as well as fears that social unrest could break out, have scared many tourists off.
With the summer season just getting under way, a repeat election on June 17 that may determine whether Greece retains the common currency has also spooked hoteliers and travel agents, who have slashed prices to try to attract last-minute bookings.
“We won’t achieve the same income as last year because we are forced to reduce prices,” said Andreadis, in an interview on the sidelines of a tourism conference. “Greece is the best value-for-money ever because of the crisis.”
Some Germans - a nationality that along with Britons has traditionally come to Greece in larger numbers than any other - are staying away due to reports of anti-German sentiment and fears of being stranded by anti-austerity strikes.
Greece expects more visitors from Russia, Ukraine, Israel and its tourist rival Turkey, but there is little hope that these markets will make up for lost income.
Tourism revenues dropped by 15 percent in the first quarter to 396 million euros.
Reporting by Yvonne Bell and Renee Maltezou; Editing by Andrew Osborn, John Stonestreet