The number of foreign tourists visiting Greece from the beginning of the year until now has reached a record high, despite the wildfires and heatwaves that have struck the country during the summer period, according to statistical data published on Monday, as reported by AFP
Between the beginning of January and the end of August, a total of 22.65 million tourists visited the Mediterranean country renowned for its islands in the Aegean Sea and ancient sites such as the Acropolis of Athens, an increase of 18.4% compared to a similar period in 2022, as reported by the Central Bank of Greece.
The number of visitors recorded in the first eight months of the year surpasses the absolute record, recorded in the same period of 2019 when Greece was visited by 21.84 million tourists. Subsequently, the tourist seasons of 2020 and 2021 were heavily impacted by travel restrictions introduced to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Considering the tourism industry as the driving force of Greece’s economy, the 2023 season has been marked by devastating fires caused by one of the longest heatwaves Greece has experienced. These fires, ignited by temperatures locally exceeding 46 degrees Celsius, particularly affected some of the main tourist destinations, such as the island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea (southeast), and Corfu in the Ionian Sea (northwest).
In July, tens of thousands of people, including numerous tourists, had to be evacuated from the two islands as the flames advanced.
In August, violent fires struck Greece once again.
However, in August alone, which traditionally is the peak period of the tourist season in the Mediterranean region, the number of foreign tourists reached 6.48 million, representing a 10.4% increase compared to 2022.
Nevertheless, in August 2019, foreign tourists were slightly more numerous, at 6.76 million.
Tourists from the USA have been more numerous this year, with an increase of 50.3% in August compared to the same month last year.
In a country where tourism accounts for approximately a quarter of the GDP, some denounce the scourge of “excessive tourism” on certain islands and exorbitant prices on other islands like Mykonos and Santorini.
Throughout the summer, there was a “towel movement,” an initiative by Greek citizens who protested against the umbrellas and sunbeds that invaded public beaches and were sometimes rented at very high rates.