The Rhodes tourist department welcomed British tourists with free gifts, a water salute and music as they touched down on the island this weekend.
The first chartered flights from London touched down at Diagoras airport around midday on Saturday to a warm reception, with passengers met with a water arch from the local fire service.
Members of the tourism department offered gifts of sweets and honey, and the municipality’s philharmonic band played local music, as the island continues to build back its tourism industry from the pandemic.
Tourism receipts made a 97% recovery on pre-pandemic figures last year, helped largely by a substantial increase in visitors from Britain, France and Germany.
Meanwhile, British holidaymakers have been put off by comments from Lanzarote President María Dolores Corujo suggesting the popular destination would aim to ‘reduce dependence on the British market’ and seek ‘higher quality tourism and holidaymakers who spend more when they’re here.’
British tourists are welcomed with a water salute from a fire engine as they land in Greece
The municipality’s philharmonic band kick off the local tourist season with Greek music
As Greece looks to woo foreign travellers for the summer tourism season, the mayor of Rhodes, Antonis Kambourakis, underlined: ‘Rhodes is once again at the top.
‘For the first time so early, the tourist season opens in Rhodes with charter flights from Great Britain. Rhodes marks the opening of the summer for all of Greece.’
The island economy of Rhodes, home to about 125,000 people, is heavily dependent on tourism.
Nationally, tourism contributed 38.3bn EUR (£33.9bn) to the Greek economy pre-pandemic, falling by more than half in 2020 and recovering to 27bn EUR (£23.9bn) only by 2021.
Revenues still did not surpass pre-pandemic sums, in part as large markets from Russia and Ukraine were frozen due to the war.
Tourism to Rhodes was about 8% higher in 2022 than in 2019.
The 140 passengers from Britain were welcomed on the first charter flight of the year on Saturday.
Meanwhile, other holiday destinations still reeling from the pandemic have sought to attract new demographics to ease overreliance on any one group.
The President of the island of Lanzarote, historically a popular destination for British tourists, made headlines after raising concerns about depending too much on foreign tourism.
She said previously the island would pursue ‘a diversification strategy to reduce dependence on the British market.’
About 45% of Lanzarote’s tourists are British.
Since 2010, the UK market has also grown 73%, while the second largest demographic – visitors from Germany – has grown a flat 50%.
Lanzarote tourist board information shows Britons also spend an average of €34.94 per day on the volcanic islands, more than most foreign visitors.
Despite this, Ms Dolores Corujo said: ‘It’s essential to work on the diversification of the sector and the growth of markets like the German market, which adapt to our intentions of aiming at higher-quality tourism and holidaymakers who spend more when they’re here and moves us away from mass tourism.’
Visitors from Britain to Rhodes were offered flags, sweets, honey and gifts from the island
Lanzarote seeks to diversify its tourist economy, reducing reliance on British visitors
Many British holidaymakers took offence to the comments, prompting the Spanish 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 warmly welcome our British guests.’
Francisco Martinez, vice-president of Lanzarote’s Island Association of Hotels and Apartments, said leaders were opening an unnecessary debate and being ‘badly advised’.