Booming tourism trade boosts Greece surplus

GREECE’S booming summer tourism revenue has given a welcome boost to the cash-strapped country’s finances.

Tourism, which is the country’s biggest foreign currency driver, rose 21 per cent year-on-year to €1.59bn (£1.36bn) for June, the first month of the summer holiday season.

Surging visitor numbers also helped widen Greece’s current account surplus to €663m, from €73.1m in June last year, according to Bank of Greece figures.

While Greece’s economy is expected to shrink 4.2 per cent this year, visitor spending suggests this could be a record summer season for tourism.

The local tourism industry is currently forecasting a 10 per cent rise in tourism receipts for the full year to €11bn from a record 17m visitors.

Tourism receipts for the first half of the year reached €3.32bn, up 18 per cent on the same period last year when fears of a Greek Eurozone exit kept tourists away.

Hoteliers, restaurant owners and tourism businesses have slashed prices and upgraded services to weather the crisis and lure more visitors.

And from the beginning of this month, sales tax on dining out was cut from 23 per cent to 13 per cent – giving tourists even better value for money.

Meanwhile, Greece has also profited from the recent political unrest in Egypt, which has seen tourists opt for the relative safety of Greece’s sunny shores.

A better mix of visitors – including those who stay longer and spend more on average, like Russian tourists – is also helping.

The number of Russian visitors, who usually spend more than Germans or Britons, has risen 34 per cent, official figures for January to May showed.

Last month, Eurozone finance ministers approved €6.8bn in rescue loans. But the payouts are subject to the Greek government honouring commitments to the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.