While Greece enjoys record numbers of tourists, it still hasn’t reached its potential.
Despite hardships brought about by the economic crisis, Greece is not expecting to see tourism slow down any time soon.
According to figures released by travel booking site Webjet Australia, Greece has emerged as the top destination for Australian travellers.
The findings were based on the growth of bookings from January to August 2014, and the same period in 2015, with the site noting a 162 per cent increase.
Along with Greece, Spain (107 per cent) and Italy (91 per cent) also emerged as top choices.
Although Greece has always been a popular travel destination for Aussies, namely during the warmer months, Webjet Australia’s chief executive John Guscic partly attributes the growth to cost efficiency.
“With improved connections worldwide from ports like Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it is now much easier, direct and cost-effective for Australians to travel to Europe,” Mr Guscic said.
And it seems to be in Greece’s interest to see high numbers of Aussies, with the average tourist from Australia spending €1,420 (AU$1,820) – more than any other nation, followed by Canadians (€1,207), Americans (€1,098) and Russians (€1,005).
Considering that Greece doesn’t spend a cent promoting itself Down Under, what can the dramatic increase be attributed to?
According to the former Victorian Minister for Tourism, John Pandazopoulos, there are two reasons, one of which he says is the Greek diaspora responding to the plight of Greece through social media.
“Those of us who have got Facebook, we all end up promoting different aspects of Greece – the attractions, the islands, the interesting things to see and do – and that’s having an effect,” said Mr Pandazopoulos.
“We are the third biggest Greek community in the world, and on principal, Australians see us Greeks as a professional business community and good hard working people. They like the Greek image and that all adds up.”
Couple that with the ANZAC Centenary, and the increased coverage surrounding the role of Lemnos during the campaign, and the figures make sense.
“Australians are travellers to Anzac sites, as we know with Gallipoli and the western front.
“We’ve just had three cruise ships full of Australians over the summer period in Greece going to Lemnos, and more are choosing to experience the rest of Greece, while doing the ANZAC pilgrimage,” said Mr Pandazopoulos.
This year Greece experienced a record number of tourists with 25 million people, resulting in revenue of 15.5 billion euros. But according to the former Tourism Minister, the country has yet to fulfil its true tourism potential.
While Greece is celebrated for its pristine beaches, fresh seafood, and friendly locals, that results in a busy summer, but what about the rest of the year?
“It’s all about focusing on all-year-round travel. Why do Constantinople, Rome and Venice have all year-round tourism and Greece doesn’t? Why does Venice have more tourists than Greece all-year-round? There are no beaches. It shows you when looking at figures that Greece has huge potential,” with opportunities to promote and bring to people’s attention rural areas of Greece with a point of difference.
“The reason people travel is because they feel they have some kind of association. So when people go to Mykonos or Santorini they feel some association because they’ve seen it so many times. What’s going to grab their interest to convert their interest into actually doing the travel?”