Investing in Greek Tourism
Greece is one of the top tourism destinations in the world. The number of tourism visits over the last decade
has shown a steady increase. From 14.2 million international visitors in 2004, more than 17 million people
visited Greece in 2008, and it is expected that in a few years this number will reach 20 million, almost twice
the country’s population.
TOURISM IN GREECE
A Global Brand, A Timeless Destination
Greece is one of the top tourism destinations in the world. In fact Lonely Planet placed Greece among its top 10
destinations for 2010 and Greece ranks second in England’s 2008 Telegraph Travel Awards in their Best European
The number of tourism visits over the last decade has shown a steady increase. From 14.2 million international
visitors in 2004, more than 17 million people visited Greece in 2008, and it is expected that in a few years this
number will reach 20 million, almost twice the country’s population.
A New Tourism Investment Era
The increasing number of tourists and the evolving profile of today’s traveler demand a host of new tourism
offerings and infrastructure projects.
In Greece, investors will find a wide spectrum of opportunities, a welcome environment for new investment, and
some of the most beautiful locations in the world.
A Unique Landscape
Greece has more than 15,000 kilometres of coastline, 190,000 beaches, and 6,000 islands and islets. In addition,
visitors are discovering the diverse selection of sailing and cruising options, incentive travel, and weekend breaks,
opening up new opportunities in niche and attractive markets.
Pristine beaches, iconic mountains, a wealth of history, timeless traditions, spectacular landscapes, and renowned
hospitality draw visitors from around the world to the land where democracy was born and dreams are fulfilled.
Greece’s Mediterranean climate is ideal for year-round tourism and one of the core priorities of Greece today is to
create a dynamic, sustainable, four-season tourism infrastructure that responds to the diverse and challenging
needs of the 21st Century.
According to the 2009 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum, Greece
holds the 24th overall position among 133 countries, 3rd place in the prioritization of travel & tourism subindex,
9th place in the number of World Heritage cultural sites, 5th place in tourism infrastructure and 1st place in the
physician density subindex.
A Core Economic Sector
Tourism accounts for 18% of Greece’s GDP, directly or indirectly employs more than 900.000 people, and is the
leading source of the country’s invisible receipts (36% in 2007).
Currently, more than 9,000 hotels operate in Greece. Due to Greece’s many islands and islets, more than 6,000,
the geographical range of tourism destinations is extensive. In addition, the wide variety of natural landscapes,
extensive number of historic sites and villages, and wide-ranging number of activities mean that opportunities are
Approximately 85% of arrivals originate in Western Europe: 21.2% from the United Kingdom, 17.5% from Germany,
8.8% from Italy, 5.3% from France, 5.2% from Holland, and 7.5% from the Scandinavian countries.
Increasingly, however, significant numbers of visitors from Eastern Europe and China are making Greece their
preferred destination, creating a wider base of origin countries and new demands for services, facilities, and
Source: Greek National Tourism Organization and National Statistical Services of Greece
Although the country’s tourism infrastructure is well developed, Greece is committed to expanding its tourism
offerings and establishing itself as a 12-month destination. Its Mediterranean climate is ideal for activities such as
year round golf and trekking and it is estimated that one million Europeans would consider Greece as a second
At present, 70% of arrivals are in the May-October period and visits are disproportionately concentrated in Crete
(21% of total bed capacity) the Dodecanese islands, which includes Rhodes (17%), the Ionian Islands, which
includes Corfu (12%), Attica, which includes Athens (9%), the peninsula of Halkidiki (6.5%), and the Cyclades
islands, which includes Santorini and Mykonos (6%).
Among the targeted sectors for expansion include the development of integrated resorts and residential real
estate, golf courses and sports tourism, wellness and health tourism, upgraded and new marinas, conference
centers, agrotourism products, religious tourism, thermal spas and thalassotherapy centers, gastrotourism, and a
wide range of thematic offerings related to Greece’s rich cultural and historical heritage.
Historically, hotels in Greece have been small in size, with the average number of beds per hotel standing at 76.
Larger hotel units with more diverse offerings will be a welcome addition to the current accommodation
A Legendary Opportunity
Most of the hotels in Greece are categorized as 1- and 2-starhotels, meaning there is plenty of room for investors
to establish 4-and 5-star properties. And, according to the Greek Hotel Branding Report, branded hotels in
Greece account for 4% of the total number of hotels and 19% of total availability of rooms, while in other
European countries this figure lies between 25 and 40%.
Hotel chains that operate as franchisors will discover attractive opportunities to establish a network of two-,
three-, or four-star hotels in Greece.
Breakdown of hotels by star rating at key tourist destinations
Source: National Statistical Service
Dual Opportunity: Both small and large operators exist side by side within Greece’s diverse tourism market.
Following its successful staging of the 2004 Olympic Games, Greece became the focal point of the tourism market
and realized a huge jump in tourist arrivals. The Games have also proved to be a positive catalyst for widespread
The Athens International Airport is recognized as one of the best in the world. It was the only European airport in
2009 with an increased number of frequencies; its airline marketing programs having brought 12 new airlines to
Athens in 2009.
Airports throughout Greece, now numbering 40, of which 15 are international, are being upgraded to handle
increased arrivals and charter flights. In addition, former military airports are being transformed for civilian use,
enhancing the travel experience for many visitors.
The national highway system connects north and south, east and west in a seamless and well-designed network.
The newly completed Egnatia Highway, connecting Igoumenitsia with the Turkish border, is one of the most
ambitious transport projects in the European Union of the last decade. The Ionian Highway, which connects Patras
with Igoumenitsa, complements to the system’s upgrading.
Close to the capital, the Attika Highway Ring Road has changed road transport within the greater Athens area and
is an important logistics route, connecting the airport with logistics centres, sea ports, and rail stations. In fact,
highway entries to Greece increased substantially in 2008, demonstrating the dynamism of the emerging markets
of Southeast Europe.
The relatively new Athens Metro system, the first in the country, has been extremely successful and has had a
major impact on improving urban transport. The Athens Metro is expanding its lines and operating hours to meet
increased demand from passengers. A new metro system is being constructed in Thessaloniki that is scheduled to
begin operation in 2012.
Greece’s advanced high-speed ferry system, transporting passengers and goods to hundreds of islands, is
complemented by comprehensive air service. Also, a new seaplane service recently began in Greece is a valuable
addition for the tourism industry.
Investment Incentives Law
The New Investment Law for supporting Private Investment for Economic Growth, Entrepreneurship, and Regional
Cohesion, was voted on and passed by the Greek Parliament and is to be implemented following the relevant
Presidential Decrees and Ministerial Decisions..
Greece’s newly implemented PPP (Public Private Partnership) scheme provides significant opportunities to
investors to participate in new infrastructure projects, including marinas and thermal springs.
The National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) for the years 2007-2013 establishes the broad priorities for EU
Structural Funds Programmes in Greece.
Greece’s NSRF seeks to achieve a balanced development of the country, with 82 percent of its budget focusing on
regional projects. With a total budget of almost 40 billion Euro, NSRF will advance projects directly and indirectly
related to tourism development and will provide investors with ample opportunities to participate in a wide
number of projects.
For tourism, NSRF provides significant financial support, with a budget of more than 500 million Euro until 2013. A
core NSRF objective is to increase demand and upgrade the quality of the tourist product and tourist services
at all levels. NSRF support focuses on:
- prolonging the tourist period throughout Greece, and reducing seasonality
- promoting the country’s international appeal as a safe and attractive tourist destination
- Increasing the number of foreign visitors
- Reinforcing domestic tourism.
Investment in the tourism sector will include the upgrade of marinas, the promotion of special forms of tourism,
the creation of cultural pathways, the upgrade of winter tourism infrastructure, and the subsidizing of private
investments, according to the new Incentives Law that will be launched during 2011. It is estimated that a total of
95,000 beds will also be upgraded in the tourism sector in order to provide services of a higher quality and extend
the tourist season beyond the summer months by encouraging new forms of tourism.
Inherent in Greece’s tourism development policy is the issue of sustainability. Many hotels and resort complexes
are installing photovoltaic systems in an effort to become more carbon neutral. The need for new and efficient
building solutions, desalination plants, energy efficient power supplies, closed loop resource systems, and
software monitoring systems are just some of the areas in which Greece’s tourism sector will take advantage of
new technologies for years to come.
Also, Greece is promoting its unique ecosystems and nature reserves, many listed under the Ramsar Treaty. These
are exceptional destinations where visitors may enjoy some of the most diverse flora and fauna in Europe. From
bird watching to mountain hiking, activities that can be combined with distinctive lodging and singular experiences
are highly popular for today’s traveler that is seeking out-of-the-ordinary experiences.
Because Greece, a country of 11 million inhabitants, hosts more than 17 million visitors, education and training in
tourism services is paramount. The workforce is multilingual, well versed in the tourism sector, and willing to
respond to new challenges. From management to catering, human resources for tourism enterprises is a Greek
Ministry of Culture and Tourism
Reflecting the importance of tourism to the Greek economy, a ministry dedicated to formulating and overseeing
tourism policy is a core component of the Greek government. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism coordinates a
wide number of diverse policies and developments with other ministries so that Greece’s tourism sector remains
strong, vibrant, and responsive.
Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO)
The Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), under the direction of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, is
responsible for promoting tourism in Greece and oversees a number of organisations related to tourism education,
development, and real estate.
A Global Brand, Global Marketing Support
Greece as a tourism destination enjoys an extensive, multilingual, global marketing campaign in all media. In
addition, Greece is fully represented at all key tourism trade shows and is promoted by major travel and tour
INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES - IN BRIEF
Conference and Congress Centres
Greece’s unique combination of geographical accessibility, spectacular locations, and multiple attractions makes
it an ideal conference and congress destination. Currently, According to the International Congress and Convention
Association rankings, Athens was listed in15th position in 2008, ten places higher than in 2007.
The potential for golf to grow significantly in Greece is well documented. The current number of 18-hole courses is
five, compared with 250 in Spain and more than 50 in Portugal.
Spas and Thalassotherapy Centres
Greece boasts more than 700 thermal springs, many of therapeutic value. The potential to develop wellness
centres, spas, and integrated treatment facilities is significant.
With more than 6,000 islands and islets, and 15,000 kilometres of coastline, Greece is a natural destination for
sailors. Greece’s need for new and upgraded marinas is an appealing opportunity for investment.
Investors who respond to the growing demand for unique, integrated lifestyle resorts will find a welcoming
environment and numerous opportunities. The potential for growth is significant and the locations are spectacular.
Greece’s abundant natural resources, historical wealth, and traditional heritage provide a basis for a wide
spectrum of alternative tourism options, including wellness and medical tourism, theme parks, sports tourism,
religious tourism, adventure travel, archaeological tourism, wine and gastronomy tourism--the list is extensive.
Incentives are highly attractive and the potential for growth is considerable.
Greece is home to a wide variety of Europe’s flora and fauna, unique eco-systems, protected wildlife areas,
spectacular mountains, nature reserves, one-of-a-kind forests and marine parks. In addition, historic villages,
mountain retreats, rich agricultural variety, and gastronomic tradition are an ideal combination for a wide variety
of EcoTourism offerings.
The corporate tax rate in Greece is 25%, and licensing procedures for tourism investments have been revised and
simplified. Highly attractive real estate parcels many belonging to the State and slated for development, are
available and tourism clusters are evolving as new areas of attraction develop.
A New Investment Panorama
Investment professionals at Invest in Greece Agency are ready, willing, and able to assist you in your investment
plans for tourism development, one of the most promising areas of long-term growth in the entire Mediterranean
New, comprehensive legislation is under consultation governing the construction of holiday homes, a market with
significant potential. Experts estimate that more than 1 million Europeans would consider a second/holiday home
in Greece. A wide variety of large, attractive, suitable plots of land are available for development throughout
most of the country.
The Greek State is actively promoting government real estate assets, including Xenia Hotels, holdings managed by
the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation (HPREC), as well as marinas that need to be upgraded. This real estate
will be offered to investors through open international tenders.