Spending by tourists in Greece surged in June, central bank data showed on Monday, confirming forecasts that a record summer season could give the debt-laden country a welcome injection of foreign cash.
With domestic spending, investment and industrial production all in an austerity-driven slump, spending by foreign visitors is becoming the only growth driver for Greece's economy, which is expected to shrink 4.2 percent this year.
Tourism receipts, the country's biggest foreign-currency driver, rose 21 percent year-on-year to EUR€1.59 billion (USD$2.12 billion) in June, the first month of Greece's busy summer travel season.
That brings total tourism receipts in the first half of the year to EUR€3.32 billion, Bank of Greece figures showed, up 18 percent compared with the same period last year, when fears of a Greek euro zone exit kept tourists away.
The local tourism industry is currently forecasting a 10 percent rise in tourism receipts for the full year to EUR€11 billion from a record 17 million visitors.
Hoteliers, restaurant owners and tourism businesses have cut prices and upgraded services to weather the crisis and lure more visitors.
A better mix of visitors - including those who stay longer and spend more on average, such as Russian tourists - is also helping.
The number of Russian visitors, who usually spend more than Germans or Britons, has risen 34 percent, official figures for the January to May period showed.
As a result of surging tourism receipts, Greece's current account surplus widened in June to EUR€663 million (USD$884 million) from EUR€73.1 million in the same month last year, the Bank of Greece said.