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Since the Athens Olympics held in August 2004, tourism arrivals from the US are showing clear signs of increasing. Greek – American travel agents have reported that the peak in tourism from US will remain visible for at least the next two years. The increased flight bookings for 2006 are a clear indicator of times to come, and agents are expecting the flow to continue into 2007.
Head of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies, Yiannis Evangelou remarked that the increase be by over 20% in the year 2006. “As flights from America to Greece and the other way round are already fully booked from the period of April till October, we are already seeing the positive indications”, he said. With Delta Airlines starting direct scheduled flights from Atlanta to Athens, this fact has only found further support.
The flow of Americans wanting to vacation in Greece is going to increase further with the opening of new Greek National Tourism Organization offices in three locations in America, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles. The offices are aimed at increasing awareness and interest in the Greek tourism product in the US.
A US Daily News publication recently reported that due to increase in terrorism in Turkey, tourism from the US to Turkey has experienced a decline of nearly 50 percent in the last four years. Though the period ranging from 2004 till 2005 has seen a rise once again of at least 25 percent.
Of an altogether different opinion is Stavros Andreadis, President of Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE), who terms this period as “short-lived spring of Greek tourism”, and specifies the imbalances in the overall effort put in by the government for tourism as one of the reasons. He explained that, “Despite the 4.7 percent rise in tourist arrivals as well as the 7.4 percent rise in revenues, from the period from January till September 2005, year on year, tourism does require some essential measures to improve our services and products”. He specified that 2006 was a crucial year, and that performance of the tourism industry in any year does not depend on coincidental factors as much as it does on the preparations made two to five earlier to the year. Andreadis dismissed reports that he had termed the rise in Greek tourism as coincidental.
“Recent statements have confirmed that a strong interest is being generated in the US market, especially through polls run by travel magazines, which project places such as Mykonos and Santorini and the Cyclades in general, as interesting vacation spots”, said Evangelou. Greece’s image is currently appearing quite attractive to the traveling public in the US. “Santorini has won the Best Island in Europe award from Travel and Leisure magazine, based in New York, and readers of Travel Air, a division of New York Times have voted the Cyclades as the best complex of islands in all of Europe”, added Evangelou.
The Ionian Islands have also won their fair share of fame after being voted the island with the second most beautiful beaches in the world. This is not the first time Ionian beaches have received accolades, with Lefkada’s Porto Katsiki and Kathisma as well as Myrtos in Kefalonia also being featured in the list of top 10 beaches.