Greece’s tourism drops by 11%


ATHENS – Greece, one of Europe’s biggest tourist destinations, expects visitor numbers to fall by between 7 and 11 percent this year because of the global economic downturn, the country’s tourism minister said on Monday.

‘(The drop) may be 10 or 11 percent but it may also be 7 or 8 percent,’ Tourism Minister Costas Markopoulos said in an interview with radio station Alpha.

Greece, a country with about 11 million residents, attracts about 15 million visitors each year, most from the UK and Germany.

A slump in tourism, which accounts for nearly a fifth of the country’s GDP and about one in five jobs, may drag the economy into its first recession after 15 years of robust growth, according to European Commission and IMF forecasts.

Greek unemployment rose to a three-year high of 9.3 percent in the first quarter, partly on fewer hirings in the hotels and restaurant business, according to figures released earlier on Monday by the Greece’s statistics agency.