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TOURISM IN GREECE - Investment Opportunities in Greece

TOURISM IN GREECE - Investment Opportunities in Greece

GREECE - A Global Brand, A Timeless Destination

Greece is one of the top tourism destinations in the world. The number of tourism visits over the last decade has shown a steady increase. In 2007, more than 17 million people visited Greece and it is expected that by 2010 this number will reach 20 million, almost twice the country's population.

A New Tourism Investment Era. The increasing number of tourists and the evolving profile of today's traveler demand a host of new tourism offerings and infrastructure projects.

Investors, who wish to be positioned in Greece and benefit from this dynamic growth location, may take advantage of cash grants or leasing subsidies of up to 60 percent of the overall investment cost OR tax benefits of up to 100%.

Investors will find a wide spectrum of opportunities, a welcome environment for new investment, and some of the most beautiful locations in the world.

Pristine beaches, iconic mountains, a wealth of history, timeless traditions, spectacular landscapes, and renowned hospitality draw visitors from around the world to the land where democracy was born and dreams are fulfilled.

Greece's Mediterranean climate is ideal for year-round tourism and one of the core priorities of Greece today is to create a dynamic, sustainable, four-season tourism infrastructure that responds to the diverse and challenging needs of the 21st Century.

A Core Economic Sector
Tourism accounts for 18% of Greece's GDP, directly or indirectly employs more than 700.000 people, and is the leading source of the country's invisible receipts (36% in 2007).

Currently, more than 9.000 hotels operate in Greece. Due to Greece's many islands, more than 3.000, the geographical range of tourism destinations is extensive. In addition, the wide variety of natural landscapes, extensive number of historic sites and villages, and wide-ranging number of activities mean that opportunities are virtually limitless.  
Approximately 85% of arrivals originate in Western Europe: 21.2% from the United Kingdom, 17.5% from Germany, 8.8% from Italy, 5.3% from France, 5.2% from Holland, and 7.5% from the Scandinavian countries.

Increasingly, however, significant numbers of visitors from Eastern Europe and China are making Greece their preferred destination, creating a wider base of origin countries and new demands for services, facilities, and attractions.

Although the country's tourism infrastructure is well developed, Greece is committed to expanding its tourism offerings and establishing itself as a 12-month destination. Its Mediterranean climate is ideal for activities such as year round golf and trekking and it is estimated that one million Europeans would consider Greece as a second home destination.

At present, 70% of arrivals are in the May-October period and visits are disproportionately concentrated in Crete (21 % of total bed capacity) the Dodecanese islands, which includes Rhodes (17%), the Ionian Islands, which includes Corfu (12%), Attica, which includes Athens (9%), the peninsula of Halkidiki (6.5%) and the Cyclades islands, which includes Santorini and Mykonos (6%).

Among the targeted sectors for expansion include the development of integrated resorts and residential real estate, golf courses and sports tourism, wellness and health tourism, upgraded and new marinas, conference centers, agrotourism products, religious tourism, thermal spas and thalassotherapy centers, gastrotourism, and a wide range of thematic offerings related to Greece's rich cultural and historical heritage.

Historically, hotels in Greece have been small in size, with the average number of beds per hotel standing at 76. Larger hotel units with more diverse offerings will be a welcome addition to the current accommodation infrastructure.

Greece has more than 15.000 kilometers of coastline, 190.000 beaches, and 3.000 islands. In addition, a more diverse selection of sailing and cruising options, incentive travel, and weekend breaks can tap into the growing global demand for such activities.

Infrastructure—Supporting Success
Following its successful staging of the 2004 Olympic Games, Greece became the focal point of the tourism market and realized a huge jump in tourist arrivals.

The Games proved to be a catalyst for widespread infrastructure development. The Athens International Airport is recognized as one of the best in the world. Airports throughout Greece, now numbering 40, are being upgraded to handle increased arrivals and charter flights. In addition, former military airports are being transformed for civilian use, enhancing the travel experience for many visitors.

The national highway system connects north and south, east and west in a seamless and well-designed network. The newly completed Egnatia Highway, connecting Igoumenitsia with the Turkish border is one of the most ambitious transport projects in the European Union of the last decade.

In fact, highway entries to Greece increased substantially in 2008, demonstrating the dynamism of the emerging markets of Southeast Europe.

Greece's advanced high-speed ferry system, transporting passengers and goods to hundreds of islands, is complemented by comprehensive air service. Also, a new seaplane service recently began in Greece that is a valuable addition for the tourism industry.


Investment Incentives Law
Greece's Investment Incentives Law governs the terms and conditions of direct investment in Greece and provides for the incentives available to domestic and foreign investors. The incentives on offer are among the most competitive in the European Union.

Greece's newly implemented PPP (Public Private Partnership) scheme provides significant opportunities to investors to participate in new infrastructure projects, many of which are transport related.

The National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) establishes the broad priorities for EU Structural Funds Programmes in Greece.
Greece's NSRF seeks to achieve a balanced development of the country, with 82 percent of a Fourth Community Support Framework program focusing on regional projects. With a total budget of almost 40 billion Euros, NSRF will advance projects directly and indirectly related to tourism development and will provide investors with ample opportunities to participate in a wide number of projects.

Inherent in Greece's tourism development policy is the issue of sustainability. Many hotels and resort complexes are installing photovoltaic systems in an effort to become more carbon neutral. The need for new and efficient building solutions, desalination plants, energy efficient power supplies, closed loop resource systems, and software monitoring systems are just some of the areas in which Greece's tourism sector will take advantage of new technologies for years to come.

Also, Greece is promoting its unique ecosystems and nature reserves, many listed under the Ramsar Treaty. These are exceptional destinations where visitors may enjoy some of the most diverse flora and fauna in Europe. From bird watching to mountain hiking, activities that can be combined with distinctive lodging and singular experiences are highly popular for today's traveler that is seeking out-of-the-ordinary experiences.

Human Resources
Because Greece, a country of 11 million inhabitants, hosts more than 17 million visitors, education and training in tourism services is paramount. The workforce is multilingual, well versed in the tourism sector, and willing to respond to new challenges.

From management to catering, human resources for tourism enterprises is a Greek strength.

Ministry of Tourism
Reflecting the importance of tourism to the Greek economy, a ministry dedicated to formulating and overseeing tourism policy is a core component of the Greek government. The Ministry of Tourism coordinates a wide number of diverse policies and developments with other ministries so that Greece's tourism sector remains strong, vibrant, and responsive.

Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO)
The Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO), under the direction of the Ministry of Tourism Development, is responsible for promoting tourism in Greece and oversees a number of organizations related to tourism education, development, and real estate.

A Global Brand, Global Marketing Support
Greece as a tourism destination enjoys an extensive, multilingual, global marketing campaign in all media. In addition, Greece is fully represented at all key tourism trade shows and is promoted by major travel and tour operators worldwide.


Conference and Congress Centers
Greece's unique combination of geographical accessibility, spectacular locations, and multiple attractions makes it an ideal conference and congress destination. Currently, Greece attracts less than 3% of the European conference market.

The potential for golf to grow significantly in Greece is well documented. The current number of 18-hole courses is five, compared with 250 in Spain and more than 50 in Portugal.

Spas and Thalassotherapy Centers
Greece boasts more than 700 hot springs, many of therapeutic value. The potential to develop wellness centres, spas, and integrated treatment facilities is significant.

With more than 3,000 islands and 15,000 kilometers of coastline, Greece is a natural destination for sailors. Greece's need for new and upgraded marinas is an appealing opportunity for investment.

Integrated Resorts
Investors who respond to the growing demand for unique, integrated lifestyle resorts will find a welcoming environment and numerous opportunities. The potential for growth is significant and the locations are spectacular.

Thematic Tourism
Greece's abundant natural resources, historical wealth, and traditional heritage provide a basis for a wide spectrum of alternative tourism options, including wellness and medical tourism, theme parks, sports tourism, religious tourism, adventure travel, archaeological tourism, wine and gastronomy tourism--the list is extensive. Incentives are highly attractive and the potential for growth is considerable.

Greece is home to a wide variety of Europe's flora and fauna, unique eco-systems, protected wildlife areas, spectacular mountains, nature reserves, one-of-a-kind forests and marine parks. In addition, historic villages, mountain retreats, rich agricultural variety, and gastronomic tradition are an ideal combination for a wide variety of Ecotourism offerings.

Greece's Investment Incentives Law (3299/2004) provides for grants of up to 60% for the establishment of, thalassotherapy centers, golf courses, marinas, sports tourism infrastructure and other areas and up to 55% for the establishment of hotels. The corporate tax rate in Greece is 25%, and licensing procedures for tourism investments have been revised and simplified. Highly attractive real estate parcels many belonging to the State and slated for development, are available and tourism clusters are evolving as new areas of attraction develop.

A New Investment Panorama
Investment professionals at Invest in Greece Agency are ready, willing, and able to assist you in your investment plans for tourism development, one of the most promising areas of long-term growth in the entire Mediterranean region.

Holiday Homes
New, comprehensive legislation is being completed governing the construction of holiday homes, a market with significant potential. Experts estimate that more than 1 million Europeans would consider a second/holiday home in Greece. A wide variety of large, attractive, suitable plots of land are available for development throughout most of the country.

Greece is divided into the following zones according to the investment incentives framework:

Integrated Resorts

The development of integrated resorts in Greece represents one of the most attractive investment options in the tourism sector worldwide.

An exceptional opportunity

The development of integrated resorts in Greece represents one of the most attractive investment options in the tourism sector worldwide. Greece's stunning seashore and beaches, exceptional landscapes with breathtaking views, globally recognized brand, and potential to offer a wide spectrum of attractions add up to an opportunity that is second to none.

There are a number of world-class, integrated resorts being constructed in Greece with the cooperation of some of the leading names in the tourism industry. Resort hotels soon to open in Greece will be managed by Starwood Hotels and Resorts, under the Luxury Collection and the Westin Brands, by Banyan Tree, and by Kempinsky Hotels.

Robert Trent Jones III and Bernard Langher, Trophy Golf & Resorts, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player Design, and Troon Golf are involved in developing new golf experiences in Greece.

In the spa and thalassotherapy sector, Six Senses is present, as is ESPA, Valmont, Algoane.

Greece ranks in the top 15 tourism destinations worldwide. In 2007, Greece received 17 million visitors and this is expected to increase to 20 million by 2010. The sector accounts for almost 18 % of GDP, employs more than 700,000 people and is represented by a multilingual, experienced workforce.

In Greece, a country of many islands, more than 9,000 hotels operate. As Greece transforms itself to an upmarket destination, the need for an increase in resort accommodation becomes apparent. The orientation toward integrated resorts that can offer a wide variety of attractions is taking hold. Destinations that offer spas, golf, marinas and marine sports, conference centers, villas, 5-star hotels, as well as other niche options, are enjoying huge success.

Advantages of Investing in Integrated Resorts
  • Expanding, unmet market demand
  • Superb locations to establish resorts, large and small
  • Accessibility
  • Mediterranean climate favors year round operation
  • Attractive incentives, among the best in Europe
  • Well developed tourism infrastructure in place
  • Well-educated and highly experienced human resources
  • Greece: A global tourism destination brand

Conference Centers

Business tourism represents one of the strongest market segments in global travel today.

Business tourism represents one of the strongest market segments in global travel today. Conference tourism is growing at an annual rate exceeding 5% and Greece is well positioned to benefit from this expanding trend. Today, Greece is positioning itself at the heart of the conference and congress market and expects to enjoy a 2,5% share of the global market, up from its current 0,8% stake.

Greece ranks within the "Top 25" global conference destinations, according to data of the ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association), and experts within the industry foresee Greece reaching the ranks of the "Top 15" within a few years. In 2007, Greek venues hosted more than 155.000 conference and congress delegates and the market had revenues of more than 450 million Euros.

The anticipated increase provides significant opportunities for large-scale as well as niche and boutique market venues. Today, tourism in Greece accounts for almost 20% of GDP and a well-established tourism infrastructure caters to the needs of more than 17 million visitors.

Advantages of Investing in Conference Centers
  • Priority sector of the Greek government
  • Ideally positioned to gain significant market share
  • Well developed tourism infrastructure in place
  • Vibrant domestic meeting and conference demand
  • Well-educated and highly experienced human resources
  • Spectacular destinations available, new to the market


As one of the most favored tourism destinations in the world, Greece is a natural haven for sailors.

As one of the most favored tourism destinations in the world, Greece is a natural haven for sailors. With a coastline of more than 15.000 kilometres, one of the longest in the world, and more than 3.000 islands, Greece offers sailing enthusiasts endless opportunities to enjoy its crystal clear seas, natural beauty, and renowned cultural and historical attractions.

Demand for professional marina services is growing, ushering in significant investment opportunities. The tourism industry in Greece accounts for 18% of GDP, employs more than 700.000 people, and annual visits are expected to reach 20 million by 2010, up from 17 million in 2008.

Greece's "user friendly" seas draw visitors from across the globe, which enjoy an exceptional diversity of beaches, islands, and mainland villages.

In order to accommodate the rising number of sailboats and motor yachts, the marinas in Greece require significant upgrades and represent an exceptional investment opportunity. In addition, Greece needs new marinas to be built that will accommodate a wide variety of boats and boaters.

In Greece today, 20 marinas provide roughly 7.000 slips and an additional 3.000 boats can be accommodated in ports throughout the country. The growing demand for new space, a wide variety of services, and wide-ranging facilities translate into opportunities that require experience, expertise, and strong partnerships.

The Greek government offers attractive incentives for the construction and upgrading of marinas, where pricing is very favorable due to high demand. Public Private Partnership legislation is also an attractive platform with which to meet the needs of marina expansion through the development of state-owned real estate.

Advantages of Investing in Marinas
  • Expanding market and growing demand for permanent slips
  • Need for new and upgraded facilities at many points throughout Greece
  • Ability to invest in a PPP (Public Private Partnership) project
  • Safe seas and short distances between attractive destinations
  • Greece: A global tourism destination brand


Golf is one of the most promising investment opportunities in Greece today and the potential for growth in this under developed market is outstanding.

Golf is one of the most promising investment opportunities in Greece today and the potential for growth in this under developed market is outstanding. It is estimated that throughout the world, more than 60 million golfers make use of 32.000 golf courses. In Europe alone, almost 7 million people are active players. As Greece becomes a year-round tourism destination for Northern Europeans and a first- and second-home location for both professionals and retirees, the demand for golf courses is rising dramatically.

Due to a relatively low domestic demand historically, current development is low in absolute numbers and the room for growth is significant. Greece offers abundant locations in spectacular settings to serve golfers from colder climates, from where there are good connections to Athens, points of Greece's mainland, and the Greek islands.

The KPMG Golf Benchmark Survey 2007 finds that the business performance of golf courses in the Southeast Mediterranean region should be excellent (31%) or good (69%) versus that in Western Europe, where results indicate a performance of good at 56% and excellent at 17%.
Globally, the number of golf courses is growing by 3% annually, with a 5% growth in the number of players. Greece, and investors in golf, stands to benefit from this worldwide trend.

Year Round Golf
The climate in Greece is ideally suited to year-round golf. Average winter temperatures in southern Greece average 14C.

Recent interest by major international names in the industry shows that Greece is set to create a new golfing destination in Southeast Europe. Troon Golf has recently agreed to manage two new, 18-hole championship courses, being designed by Robert Trent Jones III and Bernard Langher, at the Costa Navarino resort in the Peloponnese. Trophy Golf & Resorts has signed on to manage the Jack Nicklaus course at the Kilada Hills resort, also in the Peloponnese and Gary Player Design is overseeing the course at the Lavender Bay Golf Integrated Residential Resort near the town of Volos.

Advantages of Investing in Golf
  • Climate favorable for year-round golf
  • Significant unmet demand, huge potential for growth
  • Available land amid spectacular settings
  • Well-developed tourism infrastructure to complement the golf experience
  • Ideal location to attract both dedicated and recreational golfers


The increasing global awareness surrounding better health, wellness, spa treatments, and unique therapies such as thalassotherapy is fueling a strong interest in the abundant mineral and hydro resources of Greece.

The increasing global awareness surrounding better health, wellness, spa treatments, and unique therapies such as thalassotherapy is fueling a strong interest in the abundant mineral and hydro resources of Greece. Investors interested in responding to this dynamic trend are finding that the combination in Greece of thermal springs and attractive investment opportunities is ideal for pursuing a highly attractive market that is growing significantly.

The use of thermal spring water, rich in minerals and therapeutic elements, is a popular and effective treatment for a variety of ailments, including myoskelatal pain, dermatological conditions, pulmonary disorders, as well as for the effective treatment of stress. Greece's thermal resources are abundant and recognized for their regenerative properties.

Hydrotherapy, the use of water in treatment, and thalassotherapy, the use of seawater and seaweed (from the Greek word "thalassa" for sea), are particularly appealing in Greece, where there are more than 700 thermo springs, many of which are classified as therapeutic. The active ingredients present in the springs are well documented and many springs are certified by the

Greece's spas currently attract roughly 100.000 visitors annually. Although there has been concerted investment in the spa sector during the last decade, it is estimated that the growth potential is significant, given the untapped thermal resources available and the stunning locations in which to create spas and thalassotherapy centers.

Advantages of Investing in Spas and Thalassotherapy
  • Expanding, unmet market demand
  • Superb locations to establish spas and treatment centers
  • More than 700 thermal springs
  • Extensive coastline favors thalassotherapy centers
  • Well developed tourism infrastructure in place
  • Well-educated and highly experienced human resources
  • Greece: A global tourism destination brand

Thematic Tourism

As the trend toward a wider variety of tourism products emerges, Greece is well placed to offer highly attractive alternative tourism options.

As the trend toward a wider variety of tourism products emerges, Greece is well placed to offer highly attractive alternative tourism options. Investors will find attractive incentives to develop new, thematic tourism offerings, from traditional settlements than can be converted into mini resorts, to numerous possibilities in health tourism, religious tourism, gastronomic tourism or sports tourism.

It is estimated that more than 25% of travelers from Europe seek new, alternative tourism products. This well-educated and affluent demographic sector welcomes the opportunity to participate in out-of-the-ordinary experiences in non-traditional tourism settings.

Greece is able to offer a multitude of these special-interest niches. As a complement to its core product of sun, sand, and sea, Greece's extraordinary landscape and natural resources, cultural and historical wealth, as well as its tradition of hospitality translate into appealing investment opportunities.

One of the greatest benefits of thematic tourism is its suitability as a 12-month opportunity. Special-interest activities attract adherents year round, providing a revenue stream the entire year, rather than seasonally, as is the case in traditional visits.

Advantages of Investing in Thematic Tourism
  • Highly diverse natural resources
  • Significant unmet demand, huge potential for growth
  • Exceptional cultural and historic wealth
  • Well-developed tourism infrastructure to complement thematic products
  • Leading tourism destination globally

Greece is dedicated to transforming its wealth of resources into valuable products for the international traveler. Investors are invited to develop thematic tourism options that take advantage of these unique assets.

The Greek government has identified tourism infrastructure development as a priority target and encourages the development of new forms of alternative tourism that can perfectly complement its traditional product. Greece attracts more than 17 million visitors annually.

Greece's breathtaking landscape and wealth of unique ecosystems is a superb setting to provide ecotourism experiences. As travelers become deeply interested in the natural environment, the opportunities to create one-of-a-kind ecotourism products are huge. With Ramsar Treaty sites, some of the most abundant and diverse flora and fauna in Europe, a wealth of agricultural areas, iconic mountains, unpolluted rivers, and exceptional habitats, Greece is perfectly suited to be a magnet for eco tourists the year round. This untapped market promises tremendous growth and the Greek government supports a variety of developments with attractive incentives.

Sports Tourism
The land that gave birth to the Olympic Games is ideal for the development of sports tourism. From sailing to spelunking, trekking to paragliding, Greece is well-suited to attract sports enthusiasts from around the world, who can engage in a diverse number of activities while enjoying the abundant attractions throughout the country, from spectacular scenery to breathtaking beaches. Generous incentives apply to the development of sports tourism facilities.

Health Tourism
Greece's renown for excellent doctors, who study and train in some of the finest universities in Europe and North America, is becoming a strategic asset as patients discover the benefits of receiving health care where expertise can be combined with both cost savings and an attractive recuperative environment. The World Health Organization ranks the Greek healthcare system at 14 in its global listing of 191 countries.

Cosmetic surgery, rehabilitation centers, fertility clinics, and dialysis treatment in a resort environment are but of the few areas that are proving to be successful in the area of health tourism. One of the most appealing facets of treatment in Greece is the option to recuperate in a beautiful environment and enjoy the many pleasures of Greek hospitality. A new law supporting health tourism is expected to be passed in 2009.

Experienced human resources, suitable land for development, simplified licensing procedures, a low corporate tax rate (25%), and significant growth potential mean that alternative tourism is an outstanding niche market.

Source: Hellenic News of America


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