Strong spending by foreign visitors widened Greece's current account surplus in July, confirming expectations that a bumper tourism season will help ease the debt-laden country's recession this year.
With domestic demand, investment and industrial output suffering amid an austerity-driven slump, spending by foreign visitors is becoming the only growth driver for the economy, which is seen shrinking less than an initially projected 4.2 percent this year.
Tourism receipts, the country's biggest foreign-currency earner, rose 12.3 percent year-on-year to EUR€2.36 billion (USD$3.15 billion) in July, central bank data showed on Wednesday, showing strength for a second consecutive month and boosting the outlook for a balanced current account down the road.
As a result, the current account balance, a key measure of economic competitiveness, showed a surplus of EUR€2.727 billion (USD$3.64 billion) from EUR€0.508 billion in the same month last year.
The latest inflows brought total tourism revenue in the first seven months of the year to EUR€5.68 billion, a 15.4 percent rise compared with the same period last year, when fears of a Greek euro zone exit kept tourists away.
The local tourism industry is forecasting a 10 percent rise in tourism receipts for the full year to EUR€11 billion, expecting more than 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.