Ahead of the harsh winter, tourists return to the Mediterranean. WGN Radio 720

CAPE SOUNION, GREECE (AP) — When Stelios Zompanakis quit his job at Greece’s central bank to try his luck at a boat race, friends and family begged him to reconsider.

Nine years later, he spends summers on the 53-foot yacht Ikigai. This yacht is named after the Japanese concept of finding happiness through a meaningful life.

His week-long yacht vacation trips to the lesser-known Greek islands of Milos, Sifnos, Serifos and Kythnos were fully booked until October.

Mr. Zombanakis recently walked barefoot across the teak deck to adjust the sails and check the instrument panel, and as the boat passed the ancient temple of Poseidon perched on a cliff south of Athens, he said, “The demand is It’s insane,” he said.

Tourism around the Mediterranean is booming. Pandemic downturn than many expected, aided by strong US dollar and inadvertent demand by Europeans to find beaches after years of COVID-19 travel restrictions The recovery from was strong, long queues, canceled flights and lost luggage. It was held in many European airports this summer, but not in Greece.

“After COVID, after two years of frustration, people probably set aside some money and decided they needed a vacation,” Zombanakis said. I think the quality has improved because the income has increased…and this has helped Greece a lot.”

Greece is about to break the record for annual income from tourism. Portugal is also aiming for a full recovery, but late-summer data suggests Spain, Italy and Cyprus are slightly below pre-pandemic visitor levels.

The recovery, which has benefited the economies of southern Europe, is easing the continent’s tilt to recession caused by the prolonged disruption of high energy prices, the war in Ukraine and the pandemic.

“Countries like Greece, Italy and Spain have actually created a lot of resilience over the summer despite the cost of living crisis and the tsunami coming from the energy crisis,” said Lorenzo Codogno, Chief Economist, LC. Visiting Professor at Macro Advisors and London School of Economics.

Europe’s Mediterranean coast also offers safe and culturally interesting destinations, but the good news may not last long.

According to new projections from the International Monetary Fund, economic growth in the 19 countries that use the euro currency will slow to 0.5% in 2023 from a 3.1% increase this year.

Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain have the eurozone’s highest debt levels relative to their size and are also facing rising borrowing costs.

Stephen Rooney, a senior economist who specializes in tourism at Oxford Economics, said tourism-dependent countries will ultimately see their industries thrive next year due to a cost-of-living crisis caused by high inflation and high energy prices. He said he would be hit hard.

“We expect to struggle with these challenges as we move into the final quarter of the year and into 2023,” he said. “While we do not expect the travel recovery to stall in 2023, we do expect it to slow somewhat in 2023 in line with the general economic slowdown before picking up again in 2024.”

In Athens’ historic Plaka district, even in the calm of late October, tourists flock the narrow streets, flock to ice cream vendors and stop by shops selling leather bags, jewelry, hats and souvenirs. I got

Vahan Apikian, co-owner of Loom Carpets, folded and stacked carpets and placed shoulder bags for customers.

“Business is going very well. We had more visitors than in 2019, which was a record year. This year was even better,” he said.

As the days get shorter and the economic outlook for the European Union darkens, Greece and other southern member states hope hiking trails, rock climbing and visits to historic churches can ease the winter slump. and renewed a national effort to set vacation destinations throughout the year. upon arrival.

But year-round tourism also exposes shortcomings in government planning and coordination capacity, says a senior policy analyst at the Athens-based Institute of Regulation, who advises governments in Southern Europe and the Middle East on policy reforms. said Panagiotis Karkatthuris, who advised him.

“It doesn’t make much sense to advertise a path to a historic monastery that closes at 3pm, or to take the elderly to a destination with bad roads and no access to a hospital. It exposes every weakness,” he said.

He argued that this winter’s windfall in earnings should fund continued government aid to struggling businesses and households, rather than head for long-term improvement.

“Something like wealth-generating tourism is definitely positive,” he said. “But how that money is spent — that’s another story.”


AP reporters Teodora Thongas and Lefteris Pitarakis in Athens, and Barry Hutton in Lisbon, Portugal. Raquel Redondo of Madrid. Menelaus Hajikostis in Nicosia, Cyprus. Contributed by Colleen Barry of Milan. Ahead of the harsh winter, tourists return to the Mediterranean. WGN Radio 720

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