Brussels.- Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary says Greece’s tourism earnings will skyrocket if it drops out of the eurozone and reverts to a devalued version of its pre-2002 drachma currency. O’Leary said Thursday that “inbound tourism would explode down there” because the country would become much cheaper and more attractive to tourists from other parts of Europe.
He also said he was looking at launching a low-cost trans-Atlantic airline in which economy class tickets would cost the equivalent of 10 euros, though baggage and other services would be extra. But he said this wouldn’t be possible for at least 3-4 years because both Airbus and Boeing Co. had huge production backlogs of long-haul aircraft.
“There’s a huge shortage and prices are high,” O’Leary said.
Tourism income in crisis-hit Greece was up 10.6 percent in the nine-month period to September, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday, with Germans and Britons making up the biggest client segments.
The country cleared 7.6 billion euros ($10.1 billion) during the period compared to 6.9 billion euros a year ago, the central bank said.
There were more than 14.2 million foreign arrivals in the country of 11 million, an increase of 10.4 percent, at a time when domestic travel declined owing to tax rises and wage cuts from a radical austerity drive affecting Greek households.
After two years of sluggish demand, Greece is judged to have benefited this year from unrest in neighbouring North Africa which forced travellers to seek alternative destinations.
The average tourist spent just under 655 euros on their stay, a fall of 0.8 from last year, confirming hotelier claims earlier this year that prices were kept low under pressure from tour operators.
Germany led the eurozone arrival list with 1.89 million people, a 12.9-percent increase over 2011 and another million Britons also visited, but their numbers fell by 5.7 percent from last year, the Bank said.
Each German spent over 800 euros on average while Britons were more sparing at under 700 euros, the figures showed.
The season, which peaks in August, also saw a 58-percent surge in Russian arrivals which by September totalled over 656,000. The Russians spent over 1,000 euros each.
The tourism industry makes up between 15 and 18 percent of the country’s battered economy.
Greece is struggling to escape bankruptcy with the help of loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund extended at the cost of painful fiscal sacrifices.