Tourism is one of the key drivers in the Greek economy. The impact of COVID-19 saw tourism GVA decline 44.8% to EUR 6.4 billion in 2020 to directly contribute 4.4% to the national economy. Employment has been less impacted, with the tourism-related share of the workforce falling to 13.0% in 2021, down 1.4 percentage points from 2019.

International arrivals decreased from 34 million in 2019 to 7.4 million in 2020, down 78%. This caused a decline in travel receipts of EUR 13.9 billion (down 76% compared to 2019). A strong recovery in 2021 saw arrivals return to 15.2 million, but this remained 55.2% below 2019 levels. Domestic tourists declined to 4.5 million in 2020 (down 14.1% compared to 2019), before increasing to 4.8 million in 2021.

Domestic and international tourists spent 73.9 million nights in registered accommodation in 2021. Despite signs of recovery, this was still 48.5% below 2019 levels. International tourism remains vital to the Greek tourism economy, accounting for 80% of nights in 2021.

The Ministry of Tourism shapes Greece’s tourism policy and international marketing strategy, introduces legislation on tourism, undertakes tourism planning and ensures co-operation with other ministries and local administration. Another part of its mission is the implementation of tourism education and training programmes to improve the quality and competitiveness of Greek tourism.

The Ministry of Tourism operates 14 Regional Tourism Offices, which aim to ensure a high-quality tourism product. The Regional Tourism Offices are responsible for: licensing, conducting quality control regarding the services provided by tourism businesses, monitoring the official classification of tourist accommodation, and imposing administrative sanctions on tourism businesses.

The Executive Structure for the Tourism Sector is responsible for the National Strategic Reference Framework for the Tourism Sector. The Special Service for the Promotion and Licensing of Tourism Investments acts as a “one-stop-shop” aimed at boosting and facilitating major tourism investments by providing full and personalised support to investors at all stages of the planned investment.

The Department of Tourism Policy Planning is responsible for developing adequate short- and long-term marketing strategies to promote Greece as a tourist destination. It also participates in co-operation schemes with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Department of International Relations and EU Affairs is responsible for EU affairs, bilateral and multilateral co-operation in tourism, and the representation of Greece in tourism-related international organisations. The Department of Special Forms of Tourism is responsible for planning, promoting and regulating matters related to thematic and special forms of tourism. It works together with other ministries (e.g. Health, Culture and Sports, Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy and Rural Development and Food) and co-operates with thematic tourism stakeholders).

For the development of smooth processes to facilitate both safe and seamless travel during the pandemic, intense co-operation was developed with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health and Digital Governance, the former General Secretariat for Civil Protection and the National Civil Aviation Authority.

Local administrations (regions and municipalities) draw up and implement programmes and activities for tourism development and promotion in the areas under their jurisdiction. All promotional activity is aligned with the national tourism promotion strategy.

The total budget for tourism in Greece was EUR 55.1 million in 2019 and EUR 68.3 million in 2020.

Greece pursues sustainable tourism development within the context of broader economic and regional development planning. Strategic planning to fulfil the aims of the national tourism policy involves extending the tourism season, dispersing tourism demand throughout the country, focusing on quality tourism, developing synergies with the private sector and boosting tourism investments. Measures focus on greater integration of tourism into national strategic planning, policies to strengthen tourism governance, support for tourism investment, promotion of skills development, encouragement of the sector’s digitalisation and fostering of sustainable destination management.

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (Greece 2.0) funds individual projects for tourism development. These projects include developing mountain, health and wellness tourism and agrotourism and gastronomy, improving marine and coastal infrastructure, implementing accessibility improvements, and promoting upskilling and reskilling in tourism through programmes to upgrade existing and acquire new skills.

The Ministry’s Annual Action Plan 2022 includes projects aimed at establishing and implementing the national strategy for sustainable tourism development and the optimal management of the individual tourism destinations of the country. There is also a focus on measuring and monitoring sustainable tourism development through the establishment of a National Sustainable Tourism Observatory, local Sustainable Tourism Observatories and Tourism Satellite Accounts.

The following projects are also being implemented:

  • Digital Transformation of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), with four sub-projects: the creation of a digital tourist map; the creation of a digital repository of the country’s cultural assets; the development of an innovative information system for tourists and citizens based on second-generation artificial intelligence technology; and the digitisation of GNTO’s historical archive.

  • Creation of a unique electronic register for tourism enterprises (e-MHTE) to improve the quality of services and enhance interoperability with new applications and systems.

At the same time, the National Strategic Plan for Tourism Development (NSSTA) is under elaboration, i.e. the development of a ten-year integrated national strategic plan for tourism development entitled the National Pact for Sustainable Tourism 2021-30. Key axes are product development and visibility, accessibility and connectivity, sustainable management and development, quality private and public infrastructure, and funding opportunities.

A Tourism Crisis Management Plan and a Crisis Communication Strategy in Greece covers a wide range of potential crises that can impact tourism, including health, environmental, economic, and societal crises. Both plans aim to increase the effectiveness and agility of the Greek tourism sector in responding to eventual future challenges.

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