Greece is counting heavily on a bumper influx of tourists to boost its economic recovery.
Security concerns in Turkey and North Africa have more travellers booking Hellenic holidays.
The Greek Tourism Confederation reckons visitor numbers could top 25 million this year, not including cruise ships.
Michael Massourakis, Chief Economist with the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, told Euronews he is optimistic: “We never thought we were gonna go above 14 to 15 million tourists, and that was what we expected during the Olympic Games [in 2004]. So, the fact that we are now at 25 to 26 million is not only because of Greece doing a good job in terms of remaining competitive, but also we have to recognise that it is because of geopolitical reasons.”
Tourism is the country’s main cash earner, accounting for as much as 20 percent of GDP and employing one in five Greeks.
But bailout linked sales tax hikes on hotel rooms, alcohol, tobacco, mobile phone contracts, the internet or even coffee have businesses deeply worried.
And Michael Massourakis says it’s not going to get better: “We made substantial progress from 2010 to 2014 [in terms of public accounts]. But from 2014 to 2016 there has been more or less a ‘stalemate’, let us say. And now we have to continue on this adjustment. That’s why I’m saying that we are entering the period of tougher austerity, that’s the proper word, probably, than what was the case for the last three years.”
Greeks, worn down by almost seven years of recession, welcome the arrival of so many tourists but are concerned that the austerity measures – and tax hikes in particular – will cripple businesses recovery efforts.
Michael Massourakis spoke to Euronews at the European Business Summit in Brussels.