Greece Greece Greece Greece

Tourism Greece

Tourism in numbers


Europe is the most important tourist region in the world. According to UNWTO, in 2006 nearly 55% of all international tourist arrivals (461 million) were on the “old continent”.Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region are the favourite holiday destinations in Europe. According to UNWTO, in 2006 about 165 million tourists visited these regions (5).

At present, the predominant summer tourist flows in Europe are from north to south, to the coastal zone. However, coastal and mountain tourism are the segments that are most vulnerable to climate change, and the Mediterranean region is the world's most popular holiday region: it attracts some 120 million visitors from northern Europe each year, the largest international flow of tourists on the globe, and their spending is in excess of EUR 100 billion (3).


The tourism industry in Greece accounts for approx 16% of GDP. Within Europe, the country has over 3% of international tourist arrivals. The proportion of foreign holidaymakers is very high, at almost 75% (5).

Tourism constitutes one of the more important economic activities in Greece. In 2003, Greece welcomed approximately 14 million tourists (excluding cruises). The major portion (90%) came from Europe and 70% from EU countries. In 2003, the accommodation capacity was approximately 650,000 beds in more than 8,500 hotels. Compared to 1996, the number of hotel beds in 2003 increased by 20%. About 60% of the total bed capacity (hotels) is located on the islands (1).

Vulnerabilities - Greece

Taking into account its high ratio of international tourists and the high proportion of employment (20%) from tourism, Greece will be one of the losers from climate change (5).

For tourist areas in Greece the impact of climate change on comfort for tourists has been estimated for 2021–2050 compared with1961–1990, based on a mid-line scenario for carbon dioxide emissions and economic growth (SRES A1B). The results show that (8)

  • the number of days where temperature is above 35°C will probably increase by 5-10 days;
  • the number of warm nights per year (above 20°C) will probably increase by about a month;
  • the length of the tourism season, defined as days with maximum temperatures above 25°C, will probably increase by more than 20 (±7) additional summer days in all tourist areas of Greece. This estimation may increase to 30 (±7) (i.e. an extra month per year) in coastal areas of Crete.

Other problems are shortages of water, that restrict the operation of tourist facilities (swimming pools, golf courses), and increasing risk of forest fires in many areas. The return of malaria to the southern Mediterranean region also cannot be ruled out (5).

The Aegean islands and Crete in particular attract many tourists. However, in midsummer many tourists already find the heat extreme. By 2030 this will further increase. In addition, on many islands there are difficulties with water supply. The frequent forest fires are also a problem for tourism (5).

Water shortages could be experienced in most years on islands such as Crete, partly due to the fact that tourists use far more water per capita than the local population (1).

Vulnerabilities – In general

There are four broad categories of climate change impacts that will affect tourism destinations, their competitiveness and sustainability (4):

  • Direct climatic impacts
  • Indirect environmental change impacts. Changes in water availability, biodiversity loss, reduced landscape aesthetic, altered agricultural production (e.g., wine tourism), increased natural hazards, coastal erosion and inundation, damage to infrastructure and the increasing incidence of vector-borne diseases will all impact tourism to varying degrees.
  • Impacts of mitigation policies on tourist mobility. Policies that seek to reduce GHG emissions will lead to an increase in transport costs and may foster environmental attitudes that lead tourists to change their travel patterns.
  • Indirect societal change impacts. Climate change is thought to pose a risk to future economic growth and to the political stability of some nations. Climate change is considered a national and international security risk that will steadily intensify, particularly under greater warming scenarios. Tourists, particularly international tourists, are averse to political instability and social unrest.

Adaptation strategies – In general

Climate change is slowly entering into decision-making of a range of tourism stakeholders (e.g., investors, insurance companies, tourism enterprises, governments, and tourists); studies that have examined the climate change risk appraisal of local tourism officials and operators have consistently found relatively low levels of concern and little evidence of long-term strategic planning in anticipation of future changes in climate (4).

There is also some evidence that local tourism operators may be overestimating their adaptive capacity (e.g., capacity to make snow under the warmest scenarios). The incorporation of adaptation to climate change into the collective minds of private and public sector tourism decision-makers (‘mainstreaming’) remains several steps away (4).

The capacity of the tourism sector to adapt to climate change is thought to be relatively high due to its dynamic nature and therefore there will be important opportunities for tourism to reduce the vulnerability of communities to climate change (4).

Adaptation strategies - Greece

In the Mediterranean region, the likely reduction of tourism during the hotter summer months may be compensated for by promoting changes in the temporal pattern of seaside tourism, for example by encouraging visitors during the cooler months (2). Climate change may even be beneficial for the Mediterranean tourist industry if it levels-out demand, reducing the summer peak, while increasing occupancy in the shoulder seasons. In the absence of such adjustments, the Mediterranean tourist industry will be among the main losers (3).

If the tourist period is extended to months May and September, the negative impacts of the heat of July and August can largely be offset, resulting in minor overall changes in the arrivals by the year 2100 (7).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Greece.

  1. Giannakopoulos et al. (2005)
  2. Amelung and Viner (2006)
  3. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  4. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  5. UNWTO, UNEP and WHO (2008)
  6. Deutsche Bank Research (2008)
  7. Bank of Greece (2011), in: Shoukri and Zachariadis (2012)
  8. Giannakopoulos et al. (2011)