ATHENS - Greece has seen revenues from its key tourist industry in the eight months to August reach half of 2019 levels, its tourism minister said in an interview published on Sunday, in line with the government's projection earlier in the year.
As COVID-19 brought global travel to a standstill, Greek tourism, which accounts for about a fifth of the economy, suffered its worst year on record in 2020 with just 7 million visitors bringing in revenues of 4 billion euros.
But as the Mediterranean tourist hotspot opened its doors to foreign travellers in May, government and industry officials said they were hoping for 40-50% of 2019 revenues which saw 33 million visitors bringing in a record 18 billion euros revenue.
"From January up to August, arrivals were up by 79.2% and corresponding receipts (rose) by 135.7% compared to the same period in 2020, which corresponds to 50% of receipts for 2019 as a whole," Vassilis Kikilias told To Vima newspaper.
"We are on track to achieve receipts of more than 10 billion euros," he added.
After Greece lifted most of its pandemic-related restrictions before its key summer tourist season, a growing number of foreign visitors poured into the country this summer.
"We have not counted final takings yet," Kikilias said, adding that September, October and November were also busy months.
Greece has been banking on tourism to drive a recovery after a recession shrunk the economy by 9% last year. Under its 2022 draft budget, the government projected the economy will grow by 6.1% this year.
Last week, the EU Commission revised its economic forecasts for Greece, seeing the country's economic output growing at a faster pace of 7.1% this year.
Speaking to a Greek television station on Saturday, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said that the final budget, due to be submitted to the parliament in the coming days, will include an estimate that will be closer to the Commission's projections.
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle) ((email@example.com; +30 2102214608; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))