From January to December 2013, a record 12.7 million tourists travelled to the main Greek airports, up by 10.8 per cent compared to 2012. The island of Crete welcomed more tourists than any other Greek destination, with Heraklion and Chania combined receiving more than 3.3 million visitors, according to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE).
The two main Greek cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, both saw passenger numbers rise. However, it was the airport of Kalamata in the south-west Peloponnese that recorded the highest increase, 61.3 per cent compared to 2012. The islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Kefalonia, Kos, Zakynthos and Rhodes, all popular destinations with holidaymakers, reported double-digit growth too.
The sea cruise sector in Greece also had an exceptional year: according to the just-released official data, cruise passengers to Piraeus, one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean, grew by 11.1 per cent in 2013 compared to 2012, rising from 2.1 million to 2.3 million, according to the Piraeus Port Authority. Athens’ cruise hub, which already receives 40 per cent of all cruise visitors to Greece, will add a third international terminal in the spring, allowing for smoother handling of the volume of tourists.
The news comes as MARKETING GREECE, a non-profit initiative of the country’s private tourism industry, is set to launch www.DiscoverGreece.com, a state-of-the-art consumer website. Debuting later this month, the new portal will feature detailed information on more than 110 Greek destinations, 2,000 high-quality photographs and more than 50 exclusively produced videos, as well as a powerful, easy-to-use booking engine. Not only will it showcase the country’s complete tourism portfolio, but it will also promote experience-based holidays by sector – a first for Greece. Anyone can already visit the website to share their memories and photos of Greece and enter a prize draw, where a lucky couple has the chance each week to win an amazing trip to Greece.
The year ahead promises to be an exciting time for visitors to Greece, with a number of key developments coming up, including the opening of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, Thessaloniki celebrating the year as the European Youth Capital, the launch of the country’s first diving parks in the Peloponnese and the announcement of a series of history-inspired walking trails in Halkidiki. Several airlines are introducing new routes from the UK to the Greek mainland and islands in 2014, including British Airways, Easyjet, Ryanair and Aegean Airlines.
MARKETING GREECE’s General Manager, Mr Iossif Parsalis, commented: “Double-digit growth in tourist arrivals by both air and sea in 2013 is exceptional news for Greece, considering predictions for further growth this year. It confirms the enduring attraction of Greece for holidaymakers of all kind, right through the year. Whether it’s your first time in the country or you’ve been returning for years, it shows there’s always something new to discover – something that’s at the heart of www.DiscoverGreece.com. We’re inviting everyone to join us and share their holiday memories and photos and become part of the journey.”