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Developments in the balance of travel services: January-September 2019

16/01/2020 - Press Releases

Balance of travel services

Based on final data, the balance of travel services in January-September 2019 posted a surplus of €14,095 million, up 12.7% from a surplus of €12,507 million in January-September 2018. This development was due to the stronger increase in travel receipts (up €1,995 million or 14.1%) than in travel payments (up €407 million or 25.3%). The rise in travel receipts in January-September 2019 compared with the same period of 2018 was driven by a rise in average expenditure per trip by €61 or 12.3% (January-September 2019: €559, January-September 2018: €498), as well as by a 1.7% increase in the number of non-resident inbound visitors.

Specifically, expenditure per overnight stay rose by 10.7% (January-September 2019: €77, January-September 2018: €70), while the average length of stay increased by 1.5% year-on-year to 7.3 nights. Τotal overnight stays rose by 3.1% to 209,349 thousand in January-September 2019, from 202,974 thousand in January-September 2018.

Travel receipts

In January-September 2019, travel receipts totalled €16,107 million, up by 14.1% relative to the same period of 2018. This development was driven by a 12.8% increase in receipts from residents of the EU28, which came to €11,100 million or 68.9% of total travel receipts, and by a 17.8% rise in receipts from residents outside the EU28 to €4,625 million.

In particular, receipts from euro area residents increased by 9.3% year-on-year to €6,883 million, while receipts from residents of non-euro area EU28 countries increased by 19.0% to €4,217 million.

Among major countries of origin, receipts from Germany fell by 0.9% to €2,565 million, whereas receipts from France increased by 18.4% to €997 million. Receipts from the United Kingdom also increased, by 35.8% to €2,367 million. Turning to non-EU28 countries, receipts from the United States rose by 22.8% to €1,011 million, while receipts from Russia increased by 21.3% to €373 million.

Travel receipts by trip purpose

Looking at the breakdown of non-resident expenditure in Greece by trip purpose, trips for personal reasons represented the bulk of receipts in January-September 2019, with a share of 95.7% in total expenditure, up from 95.4% in the same period of 2018, while the corresponding receipts increased by 14.5%. Within this category, leisure accounted for the largest share of total expenditure (January-September 2019: 88.6%, January-September 2018: 86.9%), with the corresponding receipts increasing by 16.3% to €14,266 million. Trips for the purpose of visiting family, with a share of 4.2% in total expenditure, showed a decrease of 16.0% in corresponding receipts. Receipts from trips for health purposes rose by 38.0% to €50 million. Finally, receipts from business trips increased by 6.0%, but their share in total receipts declined (January-September 2019: 4.3%, January-September 2018: 4.6%).

Inbound traveller flows

As already mentioned, the number of inbound visitors in January-September 2019 rose by 1.7% to 28,794 thousand, from 28,322 thousand in January-September 2018. Specifically, visitor flows through airports increased by 1.6%, while visitor flows through road border-crossing points increased by 8.0%. Visitors from within the EU28 accounted for 66.8% of the total number of visitors, while visitors from outside the EU28 accounted for 26.8%.[1] In January-September 2019, visitors from the EU28 increased by 3.2% relative to the same period of 2018. This development is attributed to an increase in the number of visitors from the non-euro area EU28 countries by 11.0% to 9,757 thousand, while the number of visitors from within the euro area decreased by 3.7% to 9,476 thousand. The number of visitors from non-EU28 countries rose by 5.4% to 7,720 thousand.

In particular, visitors from Germany decreased by 9.2% to 3,312 thousand, while visitors from France increased by 4.3% to 1,384 thousand. Visitors from the United Kingdom increased by 20.3% to 3,141 thousand. Finally, turning to non-EU28 countries, the number of visitors from the United States increased by 15.5% to 983 thousand, whereas the number of visitors from Russia rose by 4.6% to 469 thousand.

Overnight stays[2]

In January-September 2019, overnight stays in Greece totalled 209,349 thousand, up by 3.1% from 202,974 thousand in January-September 2018. This reflected an increase of 11.6% in nights spent by residents of non-EU28 countries, as nights spent by residents of the EU28 declined slightly by 0.2%. The drop in overnight stays by residents of the EU28 is attributed to a 5.5% decline in nights spent by residents of the euro area, as nights spent by residents of non-euro area EU28 countries rose by 8.5%. The number of overnight stays fell by 12.4% for German residents and by 1.9% for French residents, whereas it increased by 19.3% for UK residents. Turning to non-EU28 countries, the number of overnight stays by US residents increased by 14.0%, while overnight stays by Russian residents rose by 8.5%.


Since 2012, the Bank of Greece conducts a Cruise Survey in order to enrich the data collected through its Border Survey.[3] Following a standardised methodology, detailed cruise data for the period January-September 2019 were collected at 16 Greek ports, covering 83.8% of all cruise ship arrivals in Greece.

The period under review saw 2,972 cruise ship arrivals (January-September 2018: 2,562) and 4,106 thousand cruise passenger visits (January-September 2018: 3,781 thousand). According to the Cruise Survey, 89.7% of all cruise passengers were transit visitors, with an average of 2.1 stopovers at Greek ports of call (up from 1.5 stopovers in January-September 2018).

Total receipts from cruise passengers in January-September 2019 rose by 10.9% year-on-year to €426 million. Of this amount, €44 million were already captured in the Border Survey data, as they represent receipts from visitors leaving the country through Greek last ports, while the remaining €382 million concern additional receipts data recorded by the Cruise Survey.

Chart 7 shows a breakdown of cruise receipts by port. The port of Piraeus ranks first with a share of 44.8% in total cruise receipts, followed by the port of Corfu with 14.2% and the port of Mykonos with 9.4%. The seven most important cruise ship ports account for 88.8% of total cruise receipts and 81.2% of total cruise passenger visits.

In the period under review, total overnight stays ashore increased year-on-year by 15.2% to 4,308 thousand, with a positive impact on cruise receipts. The total number of cruise passengers fell by 20.9% to an estimated 1,933 thousand.

Balance of travel services by region[4]

As shown by the Border Survey, travel receipts (excluding cruises) in the period January-September 2019 amounted to €15,725 million. Five regions accounted for the bulk (87.9%) of total receipts (Table 8), namely: the Southern Aegean (€4,698 million), Crete (€3,195 million), Central Macedonia (€2,049 million), Attica (€2,040 million) and the Ionian Islands (€1,840 million). The remaining regions (Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, Western Greece, the Northern Aegean, Central Greece and Western Macedonia) together accounted for €1,904 million.

Visits to Greece (all 13 regions combined) in January-September 2019 totalled 31,319 thousand. The number of visits exceeds the number of inbound visitors, as travellers may visit more than one region in the course of one trip.

The six most popular regional destinations, accounting for 87.0% of total visits, were: the Southern Aegean (6,026 thousand visits), Central Macedonia (5,903 thousand), Attica (4,655 thousand), Crete (4,584 thousand), Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (3,217 thousand) and the Ionian Islands (2,854 thousand). The remaining regions (Epirus, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Western Greece, Central Greece, the Northern Aegean and Western Macedonia) together accounted for 4,081 thousand visits.

The number of overnight stays in Greece in the period under review totalled 206,012 thousand. According to the breakdown into the 13 regions, five regions accounted for 83.8% of total overnight stays, namely: the Southern Aegean (47,990 thousand nights), Crete (38,273 thousand), Central Macedonia (37,290 thousand), Attica (26,580 thousand) and the Ionian Islands (22,569 thousand). The remaining regions (Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Western Greece, Epirus, the Northern Aegean, Central Greece and Western Macedonia) together accounted for 33,310 thousand overnight stays.


[1] The remaining 6.4% corresponds to data on cruise passenger flows other than those collected through the Border Survey (“non-BS cruise data”).

[2] It should be noted that each same-day visit, irrespective of duration, is counted as one overnight stay.

[3] Overall cruise data are thus derived from two sources:

(a) The Border Survey, which records data on cruise travellers leaving the country through a Greek point of exit (airport, road border-crossing point or sea port). In this case, the cruise data are integrated into the overall Border Survey statistics.

(b) The Cruise Survey, launched by the Bank of Greece in 2012. The survey is based on administrative data and seeks to capture the rest of cruise travellers, grouping them into: (i) travellers with a Greek home port; (ii) travellers with a Greek last port; and (iii) transit travellers stopping over at Greek ports of call.

[4] The regional figures do not include cruise data collected from sources other than the Border Survey. Therefore, they differ from aggregate data for travel services reported in the previous sections.

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