Tourism in Greece

Tourism in Greece has been a key element of the economic activity in the country, and is one of the country's most important sectors. Greece has been a major tourist destination and attraction in Europe since antiquity, for its rich culture and history, which is reflected in large part by its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among the most in Europe and the world[1] as well as for its long coastline, many islands and beaches.[2]

The Egremnoi sand beach in the Greek island of Lefkada, a popular tourist destination.

Greece has attracted 26.5 million visitors in 2015 and is projected to attract 30 million visitors in 2016,[3][4][5] making Greece one of the most visited countries in Europe and the world and contributing 18% to the nation's Gross Domestic Product,[6] with its capital city Athens, as well as Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Corfu, Crete and Chalkidice being some of the country's major tourist destinations.

In recent years, Greece has also promoted the religious tourism and pilgrimages to regions with a significant historical religious presence, such as the monasteries in Meteora and Mount Athos, in cooperation with other countries.[7]


Tourism in Greece traces its roots to ancient times. Cultural exchange took place between the Greek colonies of Magna Graeca and the young Roman Republic before Rome's rise to dominance of the Western Mediterranean. When Greece was annexed by the Roman Empire centuries later, the cultural exchange that started between the two civilization triggered as a result a large number of Romans visiting the famous centers of Greek philosophy and science, such as Athens, Corinth and Thebes, partly because Greece had become a province of the Roman Empire and Greeks were granted Roman citizenship.

Tourism in modern-day Greece started to flourish in the 1960s and 1970s, in what became known as mass tourism.[8] During that time, large-scale construction projects for hotels and other such facilities were undertaken and the country saw an increase in international tourists over the years.[8] International events such as the 2004 Summer Olympic Games and the Eurovision Song Contest 2006, both held in Athens, greatly helped to boost tourism in the country, while large-scale nationally-funded cultural infrastructure such as the New Acropolis Museum also contributed to the flow of tourists in the country. Thessaloniki was the European Youth capital in 2014.

Panoramic view of the Santorini caldera, taken from Oia


Forest road in Mount Pelion
Mountain lodge in Mount Olympus

In 2009, the country welcomed over 19.3 million tourists,[9] a major increase from the 17.7 million tourists the country welcomed in 2008.[10] The vast majority of tourists in the country are from within the European Union (12.7 million), followed by those from the Americas (0.56 million), Asia (0.52 million), Oceania (0.1 million) and Africa (0.06 million).[11] In the year 2007, more British people visited the country than any other nationality, numbering 2.61 million in total, making up 15% of the country's tourists for that year alone. Additionally, 2.3 million Germans, 1.8 million Albanians and 1.1 million Bulgarians visited the country that year.[11] In 2007, 92.8% of the total number of tourists in Greece were from countries in Europe.[11]

The most-visited region of Greece is that of Central Macedonia in northern Greece, near some of the most popular attractions in the country such as Halkidiki, Mount Olympus, Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great, and Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki.[10] In 2009, Central Macedonia welcomed 3.6 million tourists, or 18% of the total number of tourists who visited Greece that year,[10] followed by Attica (2.6 million) and the Peloponnese (1.8 million).[9] Northern Greece is the country's most-visited region, with 6.5 million tourists, while Central Greece comes second with 6.3 million.[9]

According to a survey conducted in China in 2005, Greece was voted as the Chinese people's number one choice as a tourist destination.[12] In November 2006, Austria, like China, announced that Greece was the favourite tourist destination for its citizens.[13] In line with these observations, Greece's former Minister of Tourism Aris Spiliotopoulos announced the opening of a Greek National Tourism Organization office in Shanghai by the end of 2010, and GNTO currently operates two tourism offices in China, one in Shanghai and one in Beijing.[14] It is estimated that throughout 2013 Greece welcomed over 17.93 million tourists, an increase of Increase 10% compared to 2012. More than 22 million tourists visited Greece in 2014 and this number increased to 26 million visitors in 2015 and is projected to attract 28 million visitors in 2016,[15][16][17] making it one of the most visited countries in Europe and the world. Tourism in Greece will typically peak between May and September where approximately 75% of all tourist visits happen.[18]

Arrivals by country

Most visitors arriving to Greece on a short term basis in 2015 were from the following countries:[19]

Rank Country Number
1 Germany 2,810,350
2 United Kingdom 2,397,169
3 Bulgaria 1,900,642
4 France 1,522,100
5 Italy 1,355,327
6 Turkey 1,153,046
7 Poland 754,402
8 United States 750,250
9 Serbia 727,831

Economic impact

At the same time, tourism consumption increased considerably since the turn of the millennium, from US$17.7 bn. in 2000 to US$29.6 bn. in 2004. The numbers of jobs directly or indirectly related to the tourism sector were 659,719 and represented 16.5% of the country's total employment for that year.


As a developed country highly dependent on tourism, Greece offers a wide variety of tourist facilities.[20] Tourism infrastructure in Greece has been greatly improved since the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and continues to expand with a number of important projects particularly in areas of less mass-tourism.[21]

Hotels and conference facilities

The five-star Porto Carras Hotel and Resort in Halkidiki hosted the European Union leader's summit in 2003
The port and marina of Naupactus

Conference tourism, targeted at academic, business, or cultural markets, is a cornerstone of the Greek national tourism policy. As a result, the Greek government, with strong support from local authorities, has been offering lucrative cash grants, leasing and employment subsidies and tax allowances to establish new conference facilities and expand existing ones. In a recent report in Meeting and Incentive Travel, Greece was ranked eighth in the world in overnight stays for conferences. Figures from the Tourism Satellite Accounting Research, conducted by WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council) project a worldwide increase in revenues in business travel to Greece from US $1.51 bn. in 2001 to US $2.69 bn. in 2011. In 1998, the figure stood at US $1.18 bn.

According to the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, the number of hotels in Greece was by classification (bedplaces):

Star rating Number Beds
5 star 176[22] 64,913[22]
4 star 994[22] 176,631[22]
3 star 1,804[22] 163,077[22]
2 star 4,460[22] 231,333[22]
1 star 1,677[22] 57,298[22]
Total 9,111[22] 693,252[22]


Greece has 51 marinas and 14,661 mooring places that provide such services as berths, fuel, water and electricity, telephony, and repairs.

Some of the most developed and busiest marinas in Greece are just a few kilometres from the centre of Athens. The marinas of Alimos and Flisvos, on the south coast of Athens, have an aggregated capacity of more than 1,800 vessels.

Spas and thermal springs

Greece has 752 thermosprings. Many have been classified as therapeutic by the National Institute for Geographical and Mineral Research.

View of the town of Corfu


Statue of goddess Aphrodite and votive offerings, Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Several kinds of museums are located in the Hellenic Republic. Most of them can be found in the big cities like Athens, where the famous New Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum are located. Furthermore, there is a vast number of galleries like the National Gallery (Athens). There are many museums in Thessaloniki too, like the Byzantine Museum. Overall, there are approximately 150 museums all over the country which are easily accessible by tourists.

Archaeological sites and cities

The ancient Olympic Stadium in Olympia
The Minoan palace in Knossos, Crete

Ecotourism and skiing

Greece has become in recent years a destination for ecotourism (especially hiking, canoeing, caving and climbing).[23] The main destinations for skiing in Greece are Arachova, Kalavryta, Karpenisi and Metsovo.[24]

Promoting Greek tourism

The government intends to promote winter tourism in Greece, which could potentially increase international arrivals even further.

Tourism in Greece is run by the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) who used Helena Paparizou, a famous Greek singer who won Eurovision Song Contest in 2005 as an ambassador. Singer Sakis Rouvas,[25] who represented Greece in the 2009 Eurovision song contest, is currently the ambassador for Greek Tourism.

The new logo of the Greek National Tourism Organisation consists of nine circles, which symbolize the nine new kinds of tourism that should be promoted to combat the tourism sector's seasonality. The new logo's slogan is "Greece, the true experience", which shows that the marketing campaign is now directed towards experience seekers and not just mass tourism.[26] The drawback of the new logo is that at a first glance it cannot be associated with Greece.

The advertisements displayed in the GNTO's web"site still focus on the triptych of sea, sun and sand. However, the tourism campaign is undergoing a significant change as city-breaks and conference tourism are promoted, along with cultural and wellness tourism. The impact of the new campaign will hopefully result in increased tourist revenues. The name of commercials is "You in Greece.


See also


  1. "Greece Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List (17)". Unesco. Unesco.
  2. Greece by Paul Hellander, Kate Armstrong, Michael Clark, Des Hannigan
  6. "For a Sustainable Tourism Industry". Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  8. 1 2 "Greece Tourism: Information about tourism in Greece and the Greek Islands". Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  9. 1 2 3 "Nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments - regional - annual data". 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2011. External link in |publisher= (help)
  10. 1 2 3 "Tourism" (PDF). 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2011. External link in |publisher= (help)
  11. 1 2 3 "24.2 mln tourist arrivals in Greece in 2014". Proto thema. April 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  12. "People's Daily Online -- Minister says Greece, China to be best tourist partners". Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  14. "GNTO Offices Abroad". Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  15. Ioanna Zikakou (25 August 2015). "New Record for Greek Tourism: Around 26M Arrivals in 2015".
  16. "Προβλέψεις για νέο ρεκόρ στον τουρισμό το 2016".
  17. "Ιστορικό ρεκόρ για τον τουρισμό".
  18. "Tourism in Greece". Tourism in Greece. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  19. NON-RESIDENTS ARRRIVALS FROM ABROAD: January - December 2015, Retrieved 31 October 2016
  20. "Country Information". Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  21. "Luxury Resorts and Residences in Greece - Costa Navarino". Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "Table 2: Hotels classified by star rating, 2006" (PDF). NSSG/HCH. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2007-09-21.
  23. Interview: Natali Dologlou, MIRC, Greece , 21.01.2016
  24. Winter vacations in Greece, on
  25.,id=905204. Retrieved 2009-02-23

External links

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Greece.
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