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Developments in the balance of travel services: 2019

09/04/2020 - Press Releases


Balance of travel services

Based on final data, the balance of travel services in 2019 posted a surplus of €15,435 million, up 11.1% from a surplus of €13,895 million in 2018. This development was due to the stronger increase in travel receipts (up €2,093 million or 13.0%) than in travel payments (up €553 million or 25.2%). The rise in travel receipts in 2019 over 2018 was driven by an increase in average expenditure per trip by €48 or 9.9% (2019: €535, 2018: €486), as well as by a 2.8% rise in the number of non-resident inbound visitors.

Specifically, expenditure per overnight stay rose by 10.2% (2019: €77, 2018: €70), while the average length of stay stood at 7.0 nights, unchanged from 2018. The number of overnight stays increased by 2.5% to 236,547 thousand in 2019, from 230,727 thousand in 2018.

Travel receipts

Travel receipts in 2019 totalled €18,179 million, up by 13.0% compared with 2018. This development was driven by an 11.7% increase in receipts from residents of the EU28, which came to €12,295 million or 67.6% of total travel receipts, and by a 15.9% rise in receipts from residents outside the EU28 to €5,385 million.

In particular, receipts from euro area residents increased by 8.9% year-on-year to €7,732 million, while receipts from residents of non-euro area EU28 countries increased by 16.8% to €4,563 million.

Among major countries of origin, receipts from Germany edged down by 0.1% to €2,959 million, whereas receipts from France increased by 14.2% to €1,090 million. Receipts from the United Kingdom rose by 32.4% to €2,564 million. Turning to non-EU28 countries, receipts from the United States increased by 14.3% to €1,189 million, while receipts from Russia increased by 27.2% to €433 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 2019, with a share of 95.1% in total expenditure, up from 94.6% in 2018, while the corresponding receipts increased by 13.6%. Within this category, leisure accounted for the largest share of total expenditure (2019: 87.3%, 2018: 85.3%), with the corresponding receipts increasing by 15.7% to €15.879 million. Trips for the purpose of visiting family, with a share of 4.4% in total expenditure, showed a decrease of 18.6% in corresponding receipts. Receipts from trips for health purposes rose by 20.2% to €59 million. Finally, receipts from business trips increased by 3.0%, but their share in total receipts declined (2019: 4.9%, 2018: 5.4%).

Inbound traveller flows

As already mentioned, the number of inbound visitors in 2019 rose by 2.8% to 34,005 thousand, from 33,072 thousand a year earlier. Specifically, visitor flows through airports increased by 1.6% and visitor flows through road border-crossing points increased by 9.0%. Visitors from within the EU28 accounted for 64.9% of the total number of visitors, while visitors from outside the EU28 accounted for 27.3%.[1] In 2019, visitors from the EU28 increased by 3.1% compared with 2018. This development is attributed to an increase in the number of visitors from the non-euro area EU28 countries (up 10.2% to 10,982 thousand), as visitors from within the euro area fell by 3.2% to 11,071 thousand. The number of visitors from non-EU28 countries rose by 6.5% to 9,295 thousand.

In particular, visitors from Germany decreased by 8.1% to 4,026 thousand, whereas visitors from France rose by 1.2% to 1,542 thousand. Visitors from the United Kingdom also increased, by 18.9% to 3,499 thousand. Finally, turning to non-EU28 countries, the number of visitors from the United States increased by 7.4% to 1,179 thousand, while the number of visitors from Russia rose by 12.1% to 583 thousand.

Overnight stays[2]

In 2019, the number of overnight stays in Greece totalled 236,547 thousand, up by 2.5% from 230,727 thousand in 2018. This reflected an increase of 10.4% in nights spent by residents of non-EU28 countries, as nights spent by residents of the EU28 declined slightly by 0.7%. 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 7.5%. The number of overnight stays fell by 12.4% for German residents and by 5.8% for French residents, whereas it increased by 18.0% for UK residents. Turning to non-EU28 countries, the number of overnight stays by US residents increased by 6.8%, while overnight stays by Russian residents rose by 17.9%.


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 for 2019 were collected at 16 Greek ports, covering 85.8% of all cruise ship arrivals in Greece.

The period under review saw 3,914 cruise ship arrivals (2018: 3,214) and 5,566 thousand cruise passenger visits (2018: 4,734 thousand). According to the Cruise Survey, 90.6% of all cruise passengers were transit visitors, with an average of 2.0 stopovers at Greek ports of call (up from 1.5 stopovers in 2018).

Total receipts from cruise passengers in 2019 rose by 14.3% year-on-year to €556 million. Of this amount, €57 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 €499 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 42.9% in total cruise receipts, followed by the port of Corfu with 13.5% and the port of Santorini with 10.5%. The seven most important cruise ship ports account for 89.8% of total cruise receipts and 83.1% of total cruise passenger visits.

In the period under review, total overnight stays ashore increased year-on-year by 10.1% to 5,288 thousand, with a positive impact on cruise receipts. The total number of cruise passengers fell by 9.4% to an estimated 2,771 thousand in the same period.

Balance of travel services by region[4]

As shown by the Border Survey, travel receipts (excluding cruises) in 2019 amounted to €17,680 million. Five regions accounted for the bulk (87.8%) of total receipts (Table 8), namely: the Southern Aegean (€5,175 million), Crete (€3,601 million), Attica (€2,592 million), Central Macedonia (€2,250 million) and the Ionian Islands (€1,911 million). The remaining regions (Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, Western Greece, Central Greece, the Northern Aegean and Western Macedonia) together accounted for €2,152 million.

Visits to Greece (all 13 regions combined) in 2019 totalled 36,643 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 86.6% of total visits, were: the Southern Aegean (6,893 thousand visits), Central Macedonia (6,761 thousand), Attica (5,923 thousand), Crete (5,288 thousand), Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (3,833 thousand) and the Ionian Islands (3,048 thousand). The remaining regions (Epirus, the Peloponnese, Western Greece, Thessaly, Central Greece, the Northern Aegean and Western Macedonia) together accounted for 4,897 thousand visits.

The number of overnight stays in Greece in the period under review totalled 232.464 thousand. According to the breakdown into the 13 regions, five regions accounted for 83.9% of total overnight stays, namely: the Southern Aegean (53,169 thousand nights), Crete (43,256 thousand), Central Macedonia (40,808 thousand), Attica (34,028 thousand) and the Ionian Islands (23,744 thousand). The remaining regions (Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Western Greece, Epirus, Central Greece, the Northern Aegean and Western Macedonia) together accounted for 37,458 thousand overnight stays.

[1] The remaining 7.8% 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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