Tourism Subsectors

Sun & beach tourism

Sun and beach tourism has always been a source of significant income in Greece, aided by the great weather, variety of beautiful islands and beaches and traditional hotel infrastructure. At the moment, Greece is investing in the upgrade of its traditional sun and beach product by:

  • improving the quality and certification of its hotel infrastructure and developing a number of luxury properties in order to attract a higher-value audience
  • adjusting its legislation to allow the building of beachside villas and homes in order to enhance its long-term stay capabilities for elderly or retirees
  • improving its transport infrastructure with the upgrading of its regional airports, ports, marinas and road network
  • developing new thematic products around local cultural or natural attractions in order to improve average spend per day and extend its tourist period beyond the summer months

As part of this new strategy, private investments both in traditional tourist areas such as the Aegean Islands, the Ionian Sea and Crete, but also in newly developed destinations, such as the Peloponnese are not only welcome but actively supported.

A very promising investment opportunity combining existing infrastructure with new market development is the upgrading of local hotels situated in very good locations to branded / chain hotel facilities. According to a recent study on Greek branded hotels, Greece has a significantly lower presence of international brands, both in terms of hotels (6% versus more than 15% in other EU countries) and in terms of hotel rooms (24% of total rooms in Greece versus more than 37% in other EU countries).

Nautical tourism

The development of infrastructure to support nautical tourism is one of the greatest challenges of Greece over the next years. More specifically, the Greek state has announced significant investments:

  • in the upgrading of cruise port facilities so that more cruise companies will use Greek ports as home ports for their Mediterranean cruises
  • in the privatization and upgrading of the state and municipality owned marinas, in order to attract more and larger yachts

Several international investors have already taken advantage of such opportunities, recognizing the great opportunity in this high-value tourist product.Greece is experiencing a boom in cruise numbers and visitors, following the recent regulatory changes that the country implemented in order to lift cabotage rules in marine cruises. This decision has liberalized the cruise market as it allowed non-EU cruise ships to embark from Greek ports, and combined with the infrastructure improvements currently planned in major Greek ports is expected to significantly improve the number of cruises using Greece either as a home port or as a destination.

The main competitive advantages of the country include a great coastline, the big number of available ports –most of them close to world known attractions-, the small distances between destinations and the country’s location - in the center of a highly touristic area in Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Key figures

Pireaus Port's cruise passenger increase between 2002 and 2014 >300%1
Cruise passenger traffic in 2014 2.2 mn
Target cruise passengers in next 2-3 years  4 mn
Forecast revenue for cruise sector in 2016 €  1 bn
Market share of Greece among EU cruise travelers 21%2
  1. Kathimerini daily newspaper article
  2. Mc Kinsey Report

City Break Tourism

City break tourism consists of three to four day trips to various cities around the world which combine cultural attractions with an active city life. It is a year-long source of tourist revenue, and has been a great growth driver for cities all around Europe and Asia.

Both Athens and Thessaloniki combine exactly the characteristics required for a significant presence in city break tourism – a strong cultural history, an active city life, an increasing network of direct flights to major cities, and great weather for city walks and short excursions to nearby places such as the islands of Spetses and Hydra or archaeological sites such as Vergina.

With the appropriate investment in hotel infrastructure, facilities, and tourist services, Athens and Thessaloniki can significantly improve their attractiveness and competitiveness as international City Break destinations, both for Western Europeans and also for emerging markets such as Russia, Turkey and Israel.

Both the Ministry of Tourism and the Municipalities of the two cities have voiced their strong support for investments and ventures that would improve this positioning and make the cities more attractive for City Break tourism.

Cultural and Religious Tourism

Greece is one of the richest countries in Europe in terms of cultural and religious monuments and historical significance. Greece has a total of 17 “World Heritage” sites which place it in the top 10 of countries internationally, and a number of museums, smaller sites and monuments and places of historical or religious significance.

There are several areas of investment which can be pursued in order to leverage this great cultural heritage, including:

  • digitalization and virtualization of the cultural elements of Greece, providing such services as “virtual museums” and 3-d site tours
  • upgrading of the sites themselves, offering higher quality services and facilities and improving the local infrastructure
  • developing thematic products around specific elements such as Greek Orthodox Religion or activities such as site digs and excavations

Once again, the Ministry of Tourism has declared its intention to significantly upgrade the cultural treasures of Greece in order to enrich its tourist product offering, and is open to discussing any potential investment opportunities that support this strategy.

Medical Tourism

Medical tourism has been a source of growth for several countries or regions, driven by the desire of people to combine high-quality, lower-cost medical services with a hospitable tourist environment.

With its abundance of skilled medical personnel, its proximity to major markets such as Europe and the Middle East and its excellent weather and environmental conditions, Greece can be a significant player in several areas of medical tourism.

Investments in the development of specialized medical centers, elderly care facilities or long-term rehabilitation and wellbeing retreats can leverage the high number of available doctors and medical staff and generate high returns for the investors.

Such investments are further supported by the existence of significant overcapacity in medical facilities which would be available for purchase at reasonable values, and the adapted regulatory framework, allowing foreign investors to more easily enter the medical market in Greece. 

Meetings and Incentives (MICE)

The Meetings and Incentives tourism market is significant both for its own value added and for providing an excellent lead-in to other forms of tourism, introducing a large number of delegates and conference-goers to new destinations which they may afterwards prefer for their summer holidays or city break.

Until the recent past, Greece lacked infrastructure development related to conference centers and meeting facilities that are readily available for hosting large scale, globally attractive conferences. Since the 2004 Olympics, the country has significantly improved its related infrastructure and currently offers a number of meeting facilities across its main cities and destinations, ranging from large venues and theatres to smaller hotels and conference centers.

Given the strong competitive advantages of Greece for MICE tourism and the desire of several Greek cities to develop this type of tourism, there are still significant opportunities for investors wishing to capitalize on the sector’s untapped potential and future growth. Such investments are strongly supported by the Investment Incentives Law, and when combined with the country’s impressive hotel infrastructure and excellent climate, can position Greece as one of the premier meeting and incentive destinations in the European continent by attracting a significant amount of conferences from large international companies and associations, thus yielding lucrative returns on capital invested.