The Athens Miracle - Tourism Set to Increase For 2016
Greek Chief of Tourism Andreas Andreadis calls it a «miracle». The «miracle» is the small construction boom in downtown Athens, triggered by a projected increase in tourism to the city for 2016. A total of 9 hotels are either being built or renovated to accommodate the rising numbers. Mr. Andreadis told the British Sunday Observer that «The tourist industry in Greece grew two to three times faster than in Spain, Portugal, Italy or France last year. This year we expect around 4.5 million visitors in Athens alone».
Statistics show that a record 23.5 million visitors came to Greece last year, generating €14.2 billion in direct revenue, good for 24% of Greece's GDP. In contrast, 2010 (when the crisis started) showed receipts of €10 billion, or 15% of GDP.
Greek officials are bullish for 2016, projecting potential arrivals at 27.5 million, once visits by cruise ships are factored in. The British Guardian reports that much of this is due to Greece's safety record in contrast with other countries in the region such as Turkey, where social unrest has led to violent incidents.
Prices in Greece are down, but tourism industry officials worry about the ever increasing tax burden the government places on the tourism sector. VAT for hotel rooms has doubled (from 6.5% to 13%), with a similar increase on food, beverages and restaurants (from 13% to 24%).
«Taxes by definition work against business», Iannis Retsos, president of the Hellenic Federation of Hoteliers, told the Guardian. «This is a sector that outperforms all others, but I worry about competitiveness and the product we offer now being overtaxed. In a recession it is impossible for businesses to absorb the total percentage of increased taxes».