The best of seasons, the worst of seasons

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The best of seasons, the worst of seasons

It was the best of seasons, it was the worst of seasons

Perhaps nothing can describe better the aftertaste of this year’s tourism season in Greece than the classic aphorism Charles Dickens employed in the introduction of “A Tale of Two Cities”.

Most indications, from official data to unofficial reports, point towards an oxymoron, as arrivals increased by 1.1% from January to July while revenues fell by 4.8% during the exact same period.

Alpha Bank cites three reasons for this discrepancy in its most recent report:

1. The overall drop in expenditure per foreign visitor trip
2. The change in the composition of tourists by country of origin and 
3. The evolution of the individual travelers / travel packages ratio which influenced expenditure per trip 

Thus, the average expenditure per trip shrank gradually over the financial crisis, from € 640 in 2010 to € 541 in 2015 and to € 542 in the first seven months of 2016 compared to € 579 in the same period of 2015. 

This decline can be attributed in part to the gradual reduction of the average non-resident length of stay in Greece from 9.3 nights in 2010 to 7.2 in 2015. 

Domestic tourism downfall

Furthermore, it is a direct consequence of the lower prices that Greek tourism businesses offer to attract foreign visitors, in an effort to offset their losses from domestic tourism downfall. 

Greek travelers accounted for 29% the country’s total overnight stays in 2010, a figure which dropped to 20% in 2015.

Arrivals by country of origin (barring cruises) indicate a boost in visitor numbers from Balkan countries, who generally spend less money than EU visitors.

Balkan tourists stood for 20% -22% of all traffic in 2010-2013 but reached 29% by 2015.

Conversely, Eurozone arrivals fell from 41% to 35% from 2010 to 2015. 

Moreover, between 2014 and 2015 there was a sharp decrease in Russian visitors, who spent € 822 per trip compared to the overall average of € 541. 

The share of Russian visitors is expected to recover in 2016 as arrivals from Russia increased by 19.3% during the first seven months, yet it is not expected to reach the 2013 figure of 8% of total arrivals.

September and, to a lesser extent, October, are also expected to be crucial months, as the lengthening of the season will be decisive for the development of travel receipts this year.

Ambient feeling of hope and agony

What the data fails to record though is the ambient feeling of combined (and contradictory) hope and agony.

A sense of relief certainly prevails that the worst was avoided during a season that had plenty of “fleurs du mal” from the terrorist attacks to Brussels, Paris, Istanbul, Nice, to Brexit, the attempted military coup d’ etat in Turkey, the refugee influx, the ongoing financial crisis, war and rumors of war in Syria, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Yet, a general feeling of uneasiness remains since it is still possible that during 2017 things can get worse before they get better.

So, when the “omnipotence of numbers” fails to offer solutions and reassurance, one can only resort to literature and poetry, in order to keep on hoping and dreaming of that “next magical Greek vacation”.

Let us therefore return to where we started and cite Dickens again:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”


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