Forget the pesky “name issue” still dogging official relations between Athens and Skopje, the Bank of Greece (BoG) reported this week that citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), the landlocked country directly to Greece’s north, comprised the largest bloc of foreign tourists to vacation in Greece last year.
The BoG figures, which were circulated by the statistics service EL.STAT, showed that 3.02 million people from the neighboring country visited Greece in 2015, a 28.8-percent increase from 2014. If added to arrivals from Serbia and Bulgaria, then the total is 5.5 million tourists from Greece’s immediate Balkan neighborhood. Most of the tourists from SE Europe used their private vehicles to reach Greek holiday destinations, with coach travel following.
The very high figure, from fYRoM, is translated into multiple entries by citizens of that country.
German tourists (2.81 million) were second in terms of the nationality of holiday makers preferring Greece, up 14.3 percent from 2014.
Arrivals of Bulgarian tourists (1.90 million) were also up by 23.9 percent, while an impressive 28.1-percent increase in Polish tourists (754,000) was also recorded.
UK tourists were in third place (2.39 million), posting an increase of 14.7 percent, yoy.
Citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia also accounted for 12.8 percent of arrivals to Greece from European countries.
In terms of air travel, the Athens International Airport accounted for 17.5 percent of traffic to/from the country, followed by Irakleio airport on Crete, 10.6 percent.
Greece recognizes the country to its immediate north with the provisional name of “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, as do the UN, EU and NATO, and not by its constitutional name, the “Republic of Macedonia”, to differentiate the country from the northern Greece province of Macedonia, which the Greek side maintains more closely approximates historical and geographical Macedonia.
The entire northern Greece province and a portion of the neighboring country, along with an even smaller portion of SW Bulgaria, comprise geographical Macedonia.