Tourists head back to ailing Greece


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The Independent Online

Tourists are beginning to return to Greece, offering some much-needed support for the battered eurozone economy.

Receipts from tourism in June were 21 per cent higher than the same month in 2012, according to the latest figures from the Greek central bank.

Holidaymakers spent €1.59bn (£1.35bn) in the depression-struck European economy in the month, which is traditionally the first of the summer holiday season. Receipts for the first half of the year were €3.32bn, an 18 per cent increase on the same period of 2012.

Tourism accounts for around 6 per cent of the Greek economy but when the impact on infrastructure investment and services are factored in, the contribution rises to 20 per cent by some estimates.

Figures from the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises last week backed up that improving picture, with a report that arrivals of foreign tourists at the main airports in Greece were up 8.6 per cent year on year July, following a 12.6 per cent rise in visitors in the first seven months of the year.

Industry spokesmen have reported a large numbers of Turkish and Russian tourists following an  easing of visa rules. Instability in Turkey and Egypt is reported to have encouraged some holidaymakers to choose Greece.

Tourism, which is the primary source of foreign currency for the Greek economy, was hit hard by political instability in the country last year, as uncertainty exploded over whether the country would remain in the single currency.

A wave of popular protest and strikes over austerity persuaded many holidaymakers to look elsewhere.

But the Greek tourism industry expects total 2013 revenues to rise by 10 per cent on the previous year, and for receipts to reach €11bn. It is expecting a record 17.4 million visitors in total.