Rhodes’ tourism department welcomed British tourists with free gifts, a water salute and music when they landed on the island this weekend.
The first charter flights from London landed at Diagoras airport around noon on Saturday to a warm welcome, with passengers met with a water arc from the local fire service.
Members of the tourism department offered sweets and honey, and the municipality’s philharmonic band played local music as the island continues to build its tourism industry after the pandemic.
Tourism receipts rebounded by 97% last year on pre-pandemic numbers, aided in large part by significant increases in visitors from Britain, France and Germany.
Meanwhile, British holidaymakers have been put off by comments from Lanzarote’s president, María Dolores Corujo, who suggested the popular destination would aim to ‘reduce dependence on the British market’ and seek ‘higher quality tourism and holidaymakers who spend more when they are here’.
British tourists are welcomed with a water salute from a fire engine as they land in Greece
The municipality’s philharmonic band kicks off the local tourist season with Greek music
While Greece is looking to lure foreign travelers for the summer tourism season, Rhodes Mayor Antonis Kambourakis underlined: “Rhodes is once again at the top.
‘For the first time this early, the tourist season on Rhodes will start with charter flights from Great Britain. Rhodes marks the opening of summer for all of Greece.’
The island economy of Rhodes, home to about 125,000 people, is heavily dependent on tourism.
Nationally, tourism contributed EUR 38.3 billion (£33.9 billion) for the Greek economy before the pandemic, falling by more than half in 2020 and only recovering to EUR 27 billion (£23.9 billion) in 2021.
Earnings still did not exceed pre-pandemic levels, in part because major markets from Russia and Ukraine were frozen by the war.
Tourism to Rhodes was over 8% higher in 2022 than in 2019.
On Saturday, the 140 passengers from Great Britain were welcomed on the first charter flight of the year.
Meanwhile, other holiday destinations still reeling from the pandemic have tried to attract new demographics to reduce over-reliance on any one group.
The president of the island of Lanzarote, traditionally a popular destination for British tourists, made headlines after raising concerns about being overly dependent on foreign tourism.
She previously said the island would “follow a diversification strategy to reduce dependence on the UK market”.
About 45% of Lanzarote’s tourists are British.
Since 2010, the British market has also grown 73%while the second largest demographic – visitors from Germany – has grown by 50%.
Lanzarote Tourist Office information shows that Britons also spend an average of €34.94 per day on the volcanic islands, more than most foreign visitors.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Dolores Corujo said: ‘It is essential to work on the diversification of the sector and the growth of markets such as the German market, which adapt to our intentions to focus on higher quality tourism and holidaymakers who spend more when they are here and keep us away from mass tourism. ‘
Visitors from Britain to Rhodes were presented with flags, sweets, honey and gifts from the island
Lanzarote is trying to diversify its tourism economy and reduce dependence on British visitors
Many British holidaymakers took offense at the comments, prompting Spain’s tourist office to reassure visitors that the island would not ‘discriminate by type of visitor’.
UK director Manuel Butler said: ‘Spain is a socially inclusive destination and we do not discriminate.
‘We extend a warm welcome to our British guests.’
Francisco Martinez, vice president of Lanzarote’s Island Association of Hotels and Apartments, said leaders are opening an unnecessary debate and being “ill-advised”.