Greece’s Tourism: From 33,000 Visitors in 1950 to 18 Million in 2014

Tourism is Greece’s heaviest industry. It may sound like a common witticism to many people, but this is the truth and if you take a close look at the numbers, you will see it, too.

18 million tourists are expected to visit Greece during 2014; a number twice as big as Greece’s population. However, a few decades earlier, back in the 1950s, the number of tourists that visited Greece hardly reached 33,000.

Of course, the situation in Greece at that time was totally different; the country was trying to heal its wounds caused by the Civil War and the World War while the Greeks were seeking better days.

Even if the tourism enterprises in Greece were not familiar with the “management and promotion of tourism” at the time, the tourism industry was a fundamental phenomenon both financially and socially.

Assistant Professor of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University at the Department of Economics Stella Kostopoulou presented a survey at the academic symposium of Aristotle University conducted by the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) concerning the development of the Greek tourism industry from 1950 to 2012.

According to the survey’s data, the number of tourists that visited Greece in the 1960s significantly increased (1,098 percent). Between 1961 and 1990 the phenomenon of mass tourism started to dominate globally in the tourism sector. Greece was not an exception. In 1990, the tourism sector reached its peak at a worldwide level.

Kostopoulou says that tourists who came to Greece over the past decades were interested primarily in visiting Athens in order to see the cultural monuments of Attica firsthand.

However, since the early 1970s, tourists prefer Greece’s islands and coastal regions for their vacations. The age of mass tourism started to dominate the entire industry.

Despite the fact that the over-concentration of tourists in certain regions caused problems to both the social and natural environment, the phenomenon of mass tourism dominated the market for the next few decades.

In the early 1990s, mass tourism began declining. The State’s mechanism acknowledged that a new, strategic plan was necessary at both a national and local level in order for alternative forms of tourisms to develop.

In 2000, more than 13 million tourists selected Greece as their holiday destination. Until 1990, Greece’s development in the tourism sector was the fastest in Europe and at a worldwide level. From 1999 to 2012, the tourism industry of Greece was developing slowly comparing to the rhythm of development in both the European and International tourism industry.

Greece’s tourism sector is, without a doubt, one of the main sources of income for all the post-war Greek governments. However, in order to achieve further development and stability, the Greek state must introduce alternative forms of tourism that will make Greece’s tourism market even more competitive.


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