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Developments in the balance of travel services: 2020

27/04/2021 - Press Releases


Balance of travel services

Based on final data, the balance of travel services in 2020[1] posted a surplus of €3,526 million, down by 77.2%, from a surplus of €15,435 million in 2019 [see Chart 1]. This development was due to a larger decline in travel receipts (down by €13,860 million or 76.2%) than in travel payments (down by €1,951 million or 71.1%) [see Table 1]. The decrease in travel receipts in 2020 compared to 2019 is attributed to a 78.2% drop in the number of non-resident inbound visitors, as well as to a decrease of €10 or 12.4% in average expenditure per overnight stay (2020: €67, 2019: €77).

In further detail, the average expenditure per trip rose by 9.1% (2020: €583, 2019: €535) and the average length of stay increased by 24.6% year-on-year, to 9 nights (2019: 7 overnight stays). Total overnight stays [see Table 5] fell by 72.9% to 64,173 thousand in 2020, from 236,547 thousand in 2019.


Travel receipts

Travel receipts in 2020 stood at €4,319 million, down by 76.2% compared with 2019. This development was driven by a 70.6% drop in receipts from residents in the EU27, which stood at €2,858 million and accounted for 66.2% of total travel receipts; and by an 81.7% decrease in receipts from residents outside the EU27, to €1,452 million [see Table 2, Chart 2].

In more detail, receipts from euro area residents declined by 68.9% year-on-year to €2,405 million in 2020, while receipts from residents of non-euro area EU27 countries fell by 77.3% to €453 million.

Among major countries of origin, receipts from Germany dropped by 61.7% to €1,134 million and receipts from France decreased by 66.3% to €367 million. Turning to non-EU27 countries, receipts from the United Kingdom declined by 70.5% to €756 million, while receipts from the United States fell by 92.8% to €86 million. Receipts from Russia also decreased, by 96.7% to €14 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 2020, with a share of 92.7% in total receipts reduced from 95.1% in 2019, while the total receipts for personal reasons decreased by 76.8% [see Table 3, Chart 3]. Within this category, leisure accounted for the largest share of total receipts (2020: 80.2%, 2019: 87.3%), with the corresponding receipts falling by 78.2% from the previous year, to €3,462 million. Trips for the purpose of visiting family, with a share of 9.1% in total receipts, showed a decrease of 51.2%. Receipts from trips for health purposes declined by 70.6% to €17 million. Finally, receipts from business trips decreased by 64.9%, but their share in total travel receipts increased (2020: 7.3%, 2019: 4.9%).


Inbound traveller flows

As already mentioned, the number of inbound visitors in 2020 fell by 78.2% to 7,406 thousand, from 34,005 thousand in 2019. Specifically, visitor flows through airports decreased by 73.2% and visitor flows through road border-crossing points declined by 83.8%. Visitors from within the EU27 accounted for 66.0% of the total number of visitors, while visitors from outside the EU27 accounted for 33.6%[2] [see Table 4, Chart 4]. In 2020, visitors from EU27 dropped by 73.6% compared with 2019. This development is attributed to a fall in the number of visitors from within the euro area by 68.9% to 3,447 thousand, as well as to a drop in the number visitors from non-euro area EU27 countries by 80.7% to 1,442 thousand. Visitors from non-EU27 countries fell by 80.6% to 2,485 thousand.

In particular, visitors from Germany decreased by 62.1% to 1,526 thousand and visitors from France declined by 69.6% to 469 thousand. Finally, turning to non-EU27 countries, the number of visitors from the United Kingdom fell by 69.5% to 1,069 thousand. Τhe number of visitors from the United States dropped by 91.0% to 107 thousand, while the corresponding number from Russia also decreased, by 95.6% to 26 thousand.


Overnight stays[3]

In 2020, the number of overnight stays in Greece stood at 64,173 thousand, reduced by 72.9% from 236,547 thousand in 2019 [see Table 5, Chart 5]. This was driven by a 67.2% decline in nights spent by residents in the EU27, as well as by a 79.5% drop in nights spent by residents outside the EU27. The drop in overnight stays by EU27 residents reflects a decrease of 63.0% in nights spent by euro area residents and of 78.8% in nights spent by residents of non-euro area EU27 countries. The number of overnight stays fell by 54.0% for German residents and by 64.6% for French residents. Turning to non-EU27 countries, the number of overnight stays dropped by 65.6% for UK residents, by 88.8% for US residents and by 96.1% for residents of Russia.



Since 2012, the Bank of Greece conducts a cruise-specific survey (“Cruise Survey”) in order to enrich the data collected through its Border Survey. Following a standardised methodology[4], detailed cruise data for 2020 were collected at 16 Greek ports, covering 75.5% of all cruise ship arrivals in Greece.

The year 2020 saw 159 cruise ship arrivals (2019: 3,914) and 68 thousand cruise passenger visits (2019: 5,566 thousand) [see Table 7]. According to the Cruise Survey, 77.2% of all cruise passengers were transit visitors, with an average of 2.0 stopovers at Greek ports of call, unchanged from 2019.

Total receipts from cruise passengers in 2020 fell by 98.2% year-on-year to €10 million. Of this amount, €1 million was already captured in the Border Survey data, as it refers to visitors leaving the country through Greek last ports, while the remaining €9 million concern additional receipts data recorded by the Cruise Survey.

Chart 7 shows a breakdown of cruise receipts by port. The port of Heraklion ranks first with a share of 56.4% in total cruise receipts, followed by the port of Piraeus with 23.6% and the port of Corfu with 6.3%. The seven most important cruise ship ports together account for 97.0% of total cruise receipts and 92.8% of total cruise passenger visits.

In the year under review, total overnight stays ashore decreased by 97.3% to 145 thousand, with a negative impact on cruise receipts. The total number of cruise passengers fell by 98.8% year-on-year to an estimated 34 thousand in 2020.


Balance of travel services by region[5]

As suggested by the Border Survey, travel receipts in 2020 amounted to €4,310 million. Five regions accounted for the bulk (86.7%) of total receipts (Table 8), namely: the Southern Aegean (€1,257 million), Crete (€861 million), Attica (€761 million), the Ionian Islands (€446 million) and Central Macedonia (€412 million). The remaining regions (the Peloponnese, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, Thessaly, Epirus, Western Greece, Central Greece, Western Macedonia and the Northern Aegean) together accounted for €572 million.

Visits to Greece (all 13 regions combined) totalled 8,288 thousand, in 2020. 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 visited regions, accounting for 85.9% of total visits, were: Attica (1,622 thousand visits), the Southern Aegean (1,573 thousand), Central Macedonia (1,280 thousand), Crete (1,236 thousand), the Ionian Islands (805 thousand) and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (602 thousand). The remaining regions (the Peloponnese, Epirus, Western Greece, Thessaly, Central Greece, Western Macedonia and the Northern Aegean) together accounted for 1,171 thousand visits.

The number of overnight stays in Greece stood at 64,053 thousand, in 2020. According to the breakdown into the 13 regions, five regions accounted for 82.3% of total overnight stays, namely: the Southern Aegean (13,628 thousand nights), Attica (12,466 thousand), Crete (10,510 thousand), Central Macedonia (9,168 thousand) and the Ionian Islands (6,914 thousand). The remaining regions (the Peloponnese, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, Thessaly, Western Greece, Epirus, Central Greece, Western Macedonia and the Northern Aegean) in total accounted for 11,368 thousand overnight stays.


Methodological Note

In view of the extraordinary travel conditions and behaviours induced by the global impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the associated movement restrictions, the Border Survey was suspended from 15 March to 1 July.

In order to ensure statistics comparability over time, the Bank of Greece has adopted the following approach:

1.         The percentage of inbound and outbound flows per cross border-crossing point has been estimated, corresponding to the time frame 16 March till 30 June.

2.         For the period 16 March-30 June, extrapolation factors have been estimated for main traveller flows per type of border-crossing point, using detailed data on official flows at border-crossing points combining also historical data on traveller flow distribution per month and border-crossing point.  

As of July 2020, conduct of the Border Survey has been fully resumed.

[1] See the Methodological Note at the end of this Press Release.


[2] The remaining 0.4% corresponds to data on cruise passenger flows other than those collected through the Border Survey (“non-BS cruise data”).

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

[4] 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 based on administrative data recording, in addition to those captured by the Border Survey, 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.

[5] 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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