Last updated: 05:18 PM ET, Wed March 30 2016

Will Greece Capitalize on Turkey’s Lost Tourism Market?

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | March 30, 2016

Will Greece Capitalize on Turkey’s Lost Tourism Market?

PHOTO: Leros, Greece. (Photo courtesy Thinkstock)

Tourism in Greece has been growing at a steady pace – even through the economic turmoil of the country, the tourism sector made modest gains.

Tourism in Turkey had also been booming, but a spate of terror attacks and a Russian ban on holidays in the country have decimated its visitor numbers.

Now, Greece is aiming to gain some of those displaced tourism dollars, targeting Russian travelers and offering itself up as an alternative destination to travelers who have traditionally looked to its competitor, Turkey.

This year, Greece has a strong development plan to continue to bolster its tourism sector, according to tourism minister, Elena Kountouras. The country is looking to boost its offerings of tours and packages to Greece with the goal of driving interest in travel to the country. The tourism ministry is working with tourism partners in regions around the country to promote and develop key aspects of this program.

The Greek-Russian Tourism Forum and Conference will take place in May. The meeting is designed to promote religious tourism and pilgrimage travel within Greece to the Russian tourism market. Special interest travel is one of the areas of tourism promotion that Greece is looking to capitalize on more.

READ MORE: How Turkey's Tourism is Struggling

The country is also working to promote itself as an ideal destination for cruises with an expanded presence at Seatrade in Miami.

Greece does have its issues, however. An influx of refugees continue to flood some islands, looking to the country as a gateway to new lives in Europe but Greece isn’t struggling with the same security issues and, as neighboring countries have cut off access to travel routes to Greece, the refugee flow is steadily decreasing.

As Greece’s tourism industry triumphed through its economic struggles, Turkey’s tourism industry has not faired as well. Businesses are struggling and reports suggest that tourism is down 50 percent. According to the Ministry of Tourism, there has been a decline of 6.4 percent and hotels are reporting that bookings are down as much as 70 percent.

And things aren’t looking much better of late.

READ MORE: What Are the World’s Most Popular Destinations?

Both the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. State Department have ordered families of staff members in southern Turkey to return home and a travel warning has been issued for the region.

The U.S. has ordered military family members to leave the Incirlik Air Base and locateions in Izmir and Mugla.

"The decision to move our families and civilians was made in consultation with the Government of Turkey, our State Department, and our Secretary of Defense," said Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command in a statement on the order.

The State Department has ordered family members of staff at the U.S. consulate in Adana and has restricted official travel within Turkey to “mission-critical.”

As tourism further declines in Turkey, Greece is hoping to be on the receiving end of some of the available tourism dollars, furthering its growth as a destination. According to the Greek Tourism Confederation, they expect visitor numbers to rise to 25 million and president of the group said that as many as 900,000 Russians are projected to visit.

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