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Developments in the balance of travel services – 2016

12/04/2017 - Press Releases

Balance of travel services

Based on final data, the balance of travel services posted a surplus of €11,202 million in 2016, down 7.3% from a surplus of €12,088 million in 2015. This development was mainly due to a decrease of €919 million or 6.5% in travel receipts, as travel payments dropped by €32 million or 1.6%. The decrease in travel receipts in 2016 over 2015 was mainly driven by a fall in average expenditure per trip by €70 or 13.0% (2016: €471, 2015: €541), as the number of non-resident inbound visitors increased by 7.5%.

Specifically, expenditure per overnight stay dropped by 9.1% (2016: €68, 2015: €75), while the average length of stay fell by 4.3% from the previous year to 6.9 nights from 7.2 nights in 2015. Overnight stays in 2016 increased by 2.9% to 193,419 thousand, from 188,012 thousand in 2015.

Travel receipts

In 2016, travel receipts totalled €13,207 million, down 6.5% relative to 2015. This development was driven mainly by a 14.6% decrease in receipts from outside the EU28, which came to €3,652 million or 27.7% of total travel receipts, as well as by a drop in receipts from residents of the EU28 (down 3.3% to €9,097 million).

In particular, 2016 saw receipts from euro area residents fall by 7.1% compared with the previous year to €5,580 million, while receipts from residents of non-euro area EU28 countries rose by 3.6% to €3,517 million.

Among major countries of origin, receipts from Germany fell by 5.2% to €2,128 million and those from France by 25.6% to €889 million. Receipts from the United Kingdom also decreased, by 3.7% to €1,944 million. Turning to non-EU28 countries, receipts from Russia rose by 3.5% to €436 million, while those from the United States fell by 22.8% to €728 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 2016, with a share of 93.9% in total expenditure, down from 94.5% in 2015, as the corresponding receipts decreased by 7.0%. Within this category, leisure accounted for the largest share of total expenditure (2016: 85.0%, 2015: 84.1%), with the corresponding receipts falling by 5.5% to €11.226 million. Trips for the purpose of visiting family, with a share of 5.3% in total expenditure, showed a rise of 25.9% in corresponding receipts. Receipts from trips for health purposes decreased by 5.2% to €35 million. Finally, receipts from business trips rose by 2.4%, increasing their share in total receipts (2016: 6.1%, 2015: 5.5%).

Inbound traveller flows

As already mentioned, the number of inbound visitors in 2016 rose by 7.5% to 28,071 thousand, from 26,114 thousand in 2015. Specifically, visitor flows through airports increased by 9.0%, while those through road border-crossing points declined by 4.7%. Visitors from within the EU28 accounted for 61.3% of the total number of visitors and visitors from outside the EU28 for 27.0%.[1] In 2016, visitors from the EU28 rose by 15.0% compared with a year earlier. This development is attributed to increases both in visitors from non-euro area EU28 countries (up 22.1% to 8,282 thousand) and in visitors from the euro area (up 9.1% to 8,935 thousand). By contrast, visitors from non-EU28 countries dropped by 12.1% to 7,583 thousand.

In particular, visitors from Germany increased by 11.7% to 3,139 thousand, while those from France fell by 13.7% to 1,314 thousand. Visitors from the United Kingdom rose by 20.8% to 2,895 thousand. Finally, turning to non-EU28 countries, visitors from Russia rose by 16.1% to 596 thousand and those from the United States by 3.8% to 779 thousand.

Overnight stays[2]

In 2016, overnight stays in Greece totalled 193,419 thousand, up by 2.9% from 188,012 thousand in 2015. This reflected an increase of 5.9% in stays by residents of the EU28 countries, as stays by residents of non-EU28 countries fell by 4.7%. The increase in stays by residents of the EU28 was due to a rise in stays by residents of non-euro area EU28 countries (up 10.7%) and by residents of the euro area (up 3.0%). Stays by German residents rose by 5.2% and those by UK residents by 11.8%. By contrast, stays by French residents dropped by 19.7%. Turning to non-EU28 countries, stays by Russian residents increased by 10.7% and those by US residents fell by 4.5%.


Since 2012, the Bank of Greece conducts a cruise-specific survey (“Cruise Survey”) in order to enrich the data collected through its Border Survey.[3] Following a standardised methodology, detailed cruise data were collected for 2016 from 16 Greek ports, covering 85.1% of all cruise ship arrivals.

2016 saw 4,093 cruise ship arrivals (2015: 4,375) and 5,053 thousand cruise passenger visits (2015: 5,118 thousand). According to this survey, 90.9% of all cruise passengers were transit visitors, with an average of 1.5 stopovers at Greek ports of call (down from 2 stopovers in 2015).

In 2016, total receipts from cruise passengers rose by 1.0% from the previous year, to €509 million. Of this amount, €51 million were already captured in the Border Survey data,[4] as they represent receipts from visitors leaving the country through Greek last ports, while the remaining €458 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 43.8% in total cruise receipts, followed by the port of Corfu with 14.7% and the port of Santorini with 8.6%. The seven most important cruise ship ports together account for 89.9% of total cruise receipts and 85.7% of total cruise passenger visits.

In the period under review, total overnight stays ashore increased by 1.6% to 4,075 thousand, while the total number of cruise visitors rose by 28.8% from the previous year to an estimated 3,391 thousand, with a positive impact on cruise receipts.

Ad hoc cruise survey

As part of its constant efforts to provide a better and more accurate picture of the current state of the cruise industry and its contribution to the balance of travel services, the Bank of Greece launched an ad hoc cruise passenger survey in July 2016.

The survey was conducted at 8 Greek ports visited by cruise ships[5] and primarily aimed to record cruise passenger expenditure in Greece and their country of origin. A total of 1,279 questionnaires were gathered from passengers boarding from a Greek home port or, for transit passengers, from a Greek port of call.

The analysis of the survey data shows that transit passengers spent an average of €65 at each port of call visit on their cruise itinerary. Of this amount, about €14 were spent on guided tours, visits to museums and other activities, €29 on shopping, €6 on transportation (e.g. vehicle rental), and €16 for other purposes.

The corresponding expenditure at Greek home ports was almost twice as much compared to the amount spent at each port of call, averaging €139. Of this amount, €26 was spent on guided tours, visits to museums and other activities, €34 on shopping, €6 on transportation (e.g. vehicle rental), and €39 for other purposes. The remaining €34 went to overnight stays ashore, as passengers with a Greek home port spent an average of one night ashore before boarding the cruise ship.

Chart 9 shows a breakdown of total cruise receipts in Greece by passenger’s country of origin. The United States takes the lead with a share of 19.5% in total receipts, followed by the United Kingdom with 11.4% and Turkey with 9.4%. The 11 most important countries of origin together account for 77.7% of total cruise receipts.

Chart 10 shows a breakdown of total cruise passenger visits by country of origin. The US again takes the lead with a share of 16.7% in total cruise passenger visits, followed by the United Kingdom with 15.4% and Turkey with 8.6%. The 11 most important countries of origin together account for 79.4% of total cruise passenger visits at Greek ports.

Similar surveys have been planned for August 2018 and October 2020 to enable a longitudinal analysis of the relevant cruise data.

Related link: Developments in the balance of travel services – 2016 - Appendix

[1] The remaining 11.7% 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 assigned 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 complementary 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] Due to the different methodology applied in 2012, the pilot year of cruise data collection, the allocation of cruise receipts data between the Border Survey and the Cruise Survey is not fully comparable with that of subsequent years.

[5] Those of Piraeus, Corfu, Heraklion, Santorini, Rhodes, Katakolon, Patmos and Mytilene.

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