The number of tourists visiting Greece has hit a record high since the start of the year, despite a heatwave and fierce wildfires over the summer, according to official statistics released Monday. From January to the end of August, 22.65 million people visited the Mediterranean country renowned for its Aegean islands and ancient sites such as the Acropolis in the capital Athens. (Also Read | Japan mulls lifting ban on ride sharing amid shortage of drivers)
It was an 18.4 percent increase over last year, the country’s central bank, the Bank of Greece, said. The visitor numbers for the first eight months of the year also exceeded the record set in 2019, which saw 21.84 million visitors.
Arrival numbers then plunged in 2020 and 2021 after travel restrictions imposed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Officials had feared that several forest fires that broke out starting in July, when Greece was hit by a prolonged heatwave with temperatures reaching 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) in the south of the country, would again deter tourists.
The fires led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, including many tourists, from two top Greek island resorts, Rhodes and Corfu, in the face of the advancing flames.
The country was again hit by fires the following month.
Overall the fires, fanned by the dry, windy and hot conditions, left 26 dead and blackened around 150,000 hectares (370,000 acres).
American tourists provided the biggest leap in numbers so far this year, with a 50.3 percent jump in August compared to the period in 2022.
Tourism generates around a quarter of Greece’s GDP, and some critics warn of the impact of “overtourism” on some islands and exorbitant prices on others.
A “beach towel movement” initiative emerged over the summer, with locals denouncing the appropriation of many beaches by businesses deploying parasols and deckchairs rented by the day, some at high rates.
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