Greece is surging travel industry with visa free entry of over 70 countries including United States, Canada, United Arab Emirates

Date:

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Reading Time: 8 minutes

In an ambitious move to bolster its tourism sector, Greece is expanding its visa-free entry policy to encompass a broader range of countries in 2024. This initiative aims to attract more tourists from around the globe, including from island nations and major tourism hubs like Saudi Arabia. By easing travel restrictions, Greece positions itself as a prime destination for international travel and tourism, especially as global travel news reports increasing numbers of travelers looking for new experiences.

Visa-Free Entry: A Game Changer for Greece’s Tourism Industry

Visa-Free Entry Policy: Greece’s new visa-free entry policy allows citizens from numerous countries to visit without the need for a visa. This policy includes members of the Schengen Area, select European Union countries outside the Schengen Zone, and countries with bilateral agreements. For travelers from island nations and others such as Saudi Arabia, this policy opens up new opportunities for travel to Greece.

Countries Benefiting from Visa-Free Entry:

  1. Schengen Area Nations: Greece is part of the Schengen Zone, allowing for seamless travel among 26 European countries. This includes popular destinations like Germany, France, and Italy, whose citizens enjoy unrestricted travel to Greece.
  2. European Union Countries Outside Schengen: Nations like Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus can enter Greece without a visa.
  3. Visa Waiver Program Countries: This includes North America (USA, Canada), South America (Brazil, Argentina), and Asia-Pacific countries (Australia, Japan).
  4. Bilateral Agreement Nations: Countries like Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia have agreements with Greece for visa-free travel.

Greece offers visa-free entry to citizens from numerous countries under various agreements and policies. Here’s a detailed breakdown of these categories as of 2024:

1. Schengen Area Countries

Greece is part of the Schengen Area, allowing visa-free travel for residents of the following 26 European countries:

  1. Austria
  2. Belgium
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Denmark
  5. Estonia
  6. Finland
  7. France
  8. Germany
  9. Hungary
  10. Iceland
  11. Italy
  12. Latvia
  13. Liechtenstein
  14. Lithuania
  15. Luxembourg
  16. Malta
  17. Netherlands
  18. Norway
  19. Poland
  20. Portugal
  21. Slovakia
  22. Slovenia
  23. Spain
  24. Sweden
  25. Switzerland

2. European Union (EU) Countries Outside Schengen

EU members not part of the Schengen Zone but with visa-free access to Greece:

  1. Bulgaria
  2. Croatia
  3. Cyprus
  4. Ireland
  5. Romania

3. Visa Waiver Program Countries

Greece allows visa-free entry to citizens from countries part of the visa waiver programs. Key countries include:

  1. North America:
    • United States
    • Canada
    • Mexico
  2. South America:
    • Argentina
    • Brazil
    • Chile
    • Uruguay
  3. Asia-Pacific:
    • Australia
    • Japan
    • South Korea
    • New Zealand
    • Singapore
  4. Middle East:
  5. Other Regions:

4. Countries with Bilateral Agreements

Countries with special bilateral agreements for visa-free travel to Greece:

  1. Europe:
    • Albania
    • Bosnia and Herzegovina
    • Montenegro
    • North Macedonia
    • Serbia
  2. Americas:
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Bahamas
    • Barbados
    • Grenada
    • Saint Kitts and Nevis
    • Saint Lucia
    • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

5. Other Countries Eligible for Short-Stay Visa-Free Entry

Additional countries whose citizens can enter Greece for short stays without a visa:

  1. Europe:
    • Andorra
    • Monaco
    • San Marino
    • Vatican City
  2. Oceania:
    • Solomon Islands
    • Samoa
    • Micronesia
    • Nauru
    • Palau
  3. Asia:
    • Brunei
    • United Arab Emirates
  4. Americas:
    • Costa Rica
    • El Salvador
    • Guatemala
    • Honduras
    • Panama
Greece 1

Greece’s GDP Overview

Greece, a country with a rich cultural heritage and strategic geographical location, has a diverse and resilient economy. Despite facing significant economic challenges in the past decade, Greece’s economy has shown notable recovery and growth in recent years. Here’s an in-depth look at the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Greece:

Current GDP Statistics

As of 2023, Greece’s GDP stands at approximately $229 billion USD. This places Greece among the mid-sized economies in Europe. The GDP growth rate has seen fluctuations but has been positive in recent years, reflecting the country’s gradual recovery from the financial crisis of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

  • Nominal GDP: $229 billion USD (2023)
  • GDP Growth Rate: 5.5% in 2022, projected around 2.3% in 2023.
  • GDP Per Capita: Approximately $21,500 USD.

Sectoral Contributions to GDP

Greece’s GDP is supported by several key sectors, reflecting the country’s diverse economic base:

  1. Services Sector:
    • Contribution: Approximately 80% of GDP.
    • Details: The services sector dominates Greece’s economy, with significant contributions from tourism, shipping, and financial services. Tourism alone contributes about 25% to GDP, attracting millions of visitors each year.

Industry and Manufacturing:

  • Contribution: Around 15% of GDP.
  • Details: Key industries include food and beverage processing, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and metal products. Greece also has a strong maritime industry, being one of the world’s largest shipowners.

Agriculture:

  • Contribution: About 4% of GDP.
  • Details: Greece is known for its agricultural products, particularly olive oil, wine, and various fruits and vegetables. The sector also supports the rural economy and traditional lifestyles.

Economic Growth and Recovery

Greece’s economy has faced significant challenges over the past decade, primarily due to the severe debt crisis that began in 2009. However, recent years have seen a steady recovery:

  • 2010-2015: Greece experienced a deep recession, with GDP contracting significantly due to austerity measures and structural reforms.
  • 2016-2019: The economy began to stabilize and grow modestly, supported by increased tourism and exports.
  • 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic caused a GDP contraction of 9%, reflecting the global economic downturn.
  • 2021-2022: A robust recovery was observed, with GDP growth rates of 8.3% in 2021 and 5.5% in 2022, driven by a rebound in tourism and government support measures.

Future Projections

Looking ahead, Greece’s economic growth is expected to continue, albeit at a slower pace:

  • 2023: GDP growth is projected to slow to around 2.3% due to global economic uncertainties and inflationary pressures.
  • 2024 and Beyond: The growth rate is anticipated to stabilize between 2% to 3%, supported by ongoing investments in infrastructure, digital transformation, and renewable energy.
Greece’s economy, while historically challenged by debt crises, is on a path of recovery and growth. The services sector, especially tourism, plays a crucial role in the GDP, while industry and agriculture continue to contribute significantly. With strategic investments and reforms, Greece is poised for steady economic growth, contributing to its stability and prosperity in the coming years.

Impact on Tourist Footfall in Greece

With these changes, Greece expects a significant increase in tourist arrivals in 2024. The Greek tourism sector is already seeing a rebound from the pandemic, with over 31 million tourists visiting in 2023.

Key Source Countries:

  • Germany: German tourists form the largest group of visitors, contributing around 4 million tourists annually.
  • United Kingdom: British travelers are close behind, with about 3.5 million visitors each year.
  • France: French tourists make up a significant portion of the footfall, with 2 million visitors.
  • United States: Approximately 1.3 million American tourists visited Greece in 2023, reflecting strong interest from North America.
  • Saudi Arabia: As part of the expanding interest in global travel, Saudi Arabian tourists are increasingly visiting Greece, supported by initiatives from the Saudi Ministry of Tourism and Visit Saudi.

Hotel Expenditures in Greece

Greece’s diverse range of accommodations caters to different types of tourists, from budget travelers to luxury seekers.

Average Daily Rates and Occupancy:

  • Luxury Hotels: High-end resorts and hotels, particularly on islands like Santorini and Mykonos, command average daily rates exceeding €500. These locations see near full occupancy during peak seasons.
  • Mid-range and Budget Hotels: Cities like Athens and Thessaloniki offer affordable accommodations with average daily rates around €120, appealing to a broader range of tourists.

Economic Impact: In 2023, hotel revenues in Greece reached approximately €9 billion. With increasing tourist arrivals, this number is expected to grow in 2024.

Luxury Hotels in Greece

Greece, renowned for its stunning landscapes and rich history, offers an array of luxury hotels that provide exceptional hospitality and breathtaking views. Here are some of the top luxury hotels across Greece:

  1. Santorini
    • Grace Hotel Santorini: Located in Imerovigli, this hotel offers spectacular views of the Caldera and Aegean Sea. It features elegant suites, a renowned infinity pool, and exceptional dining experiences.Canaves Oia Suites: Situated in the picturesque village of Oia, this hotel is known for its luxurious suites, each with a private plunge pool overlooking the sea. It blends traditional Cycladic architecture with modern amenities.Katikies Hotel: Also in Oia, Katikies is famed for its whitewashed architecture and serene atmosphere. Guests enjoy private terraces and stunning views of the caldera.
  2. Mykonos
    • Cavo Tagoo Mykonos: Known for its contemporary design and luxury services, this hotel offers stunning views of the Aegean Sea, an infinity pool, and a vibrant nightlife scene.Bill & Coo Suites and Lounge: This boutique hotel in Mykonos Town is famous for its chic suites, exceptional gastronomy, and beautiful sunset views.Santa Marina Resort & Villas: Located in Ornos Bay, this resort offers a private beach, luxury villas, and a holistic spa experience.
    • Athens
      • Hotel Grande Bretagne: Situated in the heart of Athens, this iconic hotel offers luxurious rooms, a rooftop restaurant with views of the Acropolis, and a renowned spa.King George Hotel: A neoclassical gem on Syntagma Square, the King George offers opulent accommodations and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views.Electra Metropolis: This modern hotel features elegant rooms, a rooftop pool, and a restaurant with stunning views of the Acropolis.

Major Airlines in Greece

Greece is served by several airlines, connecting it to numerous destinations worldwide. Here are the major Greek airlines:

  1. Aegean Airlines
    • Greece’s largest airline and a member of the Star Alliance, Aegean Airlines operates flights to over 150 domestic and international destinations. It is known for its high service standards and frequent flyer program.
  2. Olympic Air
    • A subsidiary of Aegean Airlines, Olympic Air focuses on domestic flights and services many of Greece’s islands, providing essential connectivity within the country.
  3. Sky Express
    • An emerging airline that has expanded its fleet and route network significantly, Sky Express offers flights to various domestic and European destinations, known for its competitive prices and modern fleet.
  4. Ellinair
    • Based in Thessaloniki, Ellinair operates both domestic and international flights, mainly focusing on connecting Greece with Central and Eastern Europe.

MICE Convention Centres in Greece

Greece is a popular destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE), thanks to its strategic location, excellent facilities, and rich cultural heritage. Here are some top MICE convention centres:

  1. Athens Metropolitan Expo
    • Located near Athens International Airport, this is the largest convention and exhibition centre in Greece. It offers state-of-the-art facilities and hosts major international events and exhibitions.
  2. Megaron Athens International Conference Centre
    • Situated in the heart of Athens, this centre is renowned for its modern architecture and world-class facilities. It accommodates a wide range of events, from large conferences to cultural performances.
  3. Thessaloniki International Exhibition Centre
    • Located in Thessaloniki, this venue is known for hosting the Thessaloniki International Fair, one of the most significant trade fairs in Southeast Europe. It offers extensive exhibition space and conference facilities.
  4. Costa Navarino Conference Center
    • Located in the scenic region of Messinia in the Peloponnese, Costa Navarino offers luxurious facilities and a variety of conference and meeting spaces, ideal for corporate events in a resort setting.

Airline Connections Enhancing Accessibility

Greece’s strategic location makes it a hub for international travel, with extensive airline connections facilitating easy access from around the world.

Major Airports:

  • Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos): Serving as the main entry point, it connects Greece to over 150 destinations globally.
  • Regional Airports: Thessaloniki, Heraklion, and other island airports like those in Santorini and Mykonos handle significant international traffic.

Key Airlines:

  • Aegean Airlines: As Greece’s largest airline, Aegean Airlines provides extensive European and Middle Eastern routes.
  • Low-Cost Carriers: Airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet offer affordable connections across Europe, contributing significantly to tourist footfall.
  • International Airlines: Carriers like Delta, Emirates, and Qatar Airways connect Greece to the Americas, Asia, and other regions, boosting international travel.

Cruise Tourism: Navigating New Waters

Cruise tourism is a growing segment of Greece’s travel industry. With its picturesque islands and extensive coastline, Greece is a prime destination for cruise travelers.

Top Cruise Destinations:

  • Santorini and Mykonos: These islands are top destinations for luxury cruise liners, offering unique experiences for travelers.
  • Piraeus Port: As the main port for Athens, Piraeus is a central hub for cruise tourism, often serving as the starting or ending point for Mediterranean cruises.

Passenger Numbers and Economic Impact:

  • Greece welcomed over 5 million cruise passengers in 2023, with numbers set to rise in 2024. The cruise sector significantly contributes to the local economy, generating approximately €1.5 billion annually.

Origin of Tourists in the 2023-2024 Season

Tourists visiting Greece in the 2023-2024 season come from a diverse array of countries, showcasing Greece’s broad appeal.

Main Source Regions:

  • Europe: Leading the charge, European countries like Germany, the UK, and France send millions of tourists each year.
  • North America: The USA and Canada are prominent long-haul markets, with increasing numbers each season.
  • Asia-Pacific: Growing interest from regions such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia is notable.
  • Middle East: Saudi Arabia, supported by the Saudi Ministry of Tourism and initiatives like Visit Saudi, is emerging as a key market.

Greece’s expanded visa-free entry policy for 2024 is a strategic move to boost tourism, aiming to attract more visitors from around the globe, including island nations and key markets like Saudi Arabia. By enhancing accessibility, improving airline and cruise connections, and offering diverse accommodation options, Greece is well-positioned to continue its growth as a leading international travel destination.

For the latest updates and travel news on Greece and other global destinations, keep following our insights on international travel and tourism.

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