(MENAFN - AFP) Tourism to Athens has grown for the first time in six years, Greek hoteliers said on Wednesday, pointing to a lull in protests after years of debt-crisis tumult.
"Calm in Athens over the past 12 months had positive results, and the summer period is proof of that," said Timotheos Ananiadis, deputy chairman of the association of hoteliers of the greater Athens area (EXAAA).
The association said hotels in their area of responsibility -- which includes the Saronic islands of Aegina, Salamis, Spetses, Hydra and Poros -- had recorded an 8.1-percent rise in occupancy in the first eight months of the year.
The announcement follows the release of nationwide state statistics last week, showing a 5.3-percent rise in tourism turnover in the second quarter of 2013.
Tourism, which makes up about 17 percent of Greece's economy, had slumped in recent years with foreign vacationers turned off by images of striking Greeks and economic meltdown brought on by the debt crisis that began in 2009.
Last year was also marked by political instability and double elections that stalled the progress of reforms and raised fears of a humiliating Greek exit from the euro.
But in recent months, the coalition government of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has convinced Greece's international creditors of his determination to carry out the structural changes necessary to revive the economy.
Samaras' government also issued emergency decrees to thwart strikes from sailors, transport workers and teachers that in the past had dragged on for days.
The return of foreign tourists is also being helped by turmoil in Egypt, another popular destination spot caught in deep political crisis, and recent unrest in Turkey.
However, the deep recession gripping the country shut down nearly 90 hotels in the greater Athens area since 2007 with the loss of nearly 7,000 beds, the association said.
In addition, it could take years for Athens to regain its place as a convention destination.
"Once you're off the list, it takes 2-3 years to get back in," noted Ananiadis.
And with tough reforms still ahead for the government, the hoteliers are fearing a return of social tensions.
"Tourism is a very sensitive product," said EXAAA chairman Alexandros Vassilikos. "I hope things in the region continue to go well because the situation can be reversed very easily."