Greece attracts more than 17.5 million people each year, contributing 15% to the nation's Gross Domestic Product. Greece has been an attraction for international visitors since antiquity for its rich and long history, Mediterranean coastline and beaches. In 2005, 6,088,287 tourists alone visited the city of Athens, the capital city.
Tourism in Greece traces its roots to the ancient times. Cultural exchange took place between the Greek colonies of Magna Graeca and the young Roman Republic before Rome's rise to dominance of the Western Mediterranean. When Greece was annexed by the Roman Empire centuries later, the cultural exchange that started between the two civilization triggered as a result a large number of Romans visiting the famous centers of Greek philosophy and science, such as Athens, Corinth and Thebes, partly because Greece had become a province of the Roman Empire and Greeks were granted Roman citizenship.
Tourism in modern-day Greece started to flourish in the 1960s and 1970s, in what became known as mass tourism. During that time, large-scale construction projects for hotels and other such facilities were undertaken and the country saw an increase in international tourists over the years. International events such as the 2004 Summer Olympic Games and the Eurovision Song Contest 2006, both held in Athens, greatly helped to boost tourism in the country, while large-scale nationally-funded cultural infrastructure such as the New Acropolis Museum also contributed to the flow of tourists in the country.Thessaloniki will be European youth capital in 2014.In 2009, the country welcomed over 19.3 million tourists, a major increase from the 17.7 million tourists the country welcomed in 2008. The vast majority of tourists in the country are from within the European Union (12.7 million), followed by those from the Americas (0.56 million), Asia (0.52 million), Oceania (0.1 million) and Africa (0.06 million). In the year 2007, more British people visited the country than any other nationality, numbering 2.61 million in total, making up 15% of the country's tourists for that year alone. Additionally, 2.3 million Germans, 1.8 million Albanians and 1.1 million Bulgarians visited the country that year. In 2007, 92.8% of the total number of tourists in Greece were from countries in Europe. In the last years, there has been significant increase in number of tourists from Israel, because of the crisis between Israel and Turkey.
The most-visited region of Greece is that of Central Macedonia in northern Greece, near some of the most popular attractions in the country such as Halkidiki, Mount Olympus, Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great, and Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki. In 2009, Central Macedonia welcomed 3.6 million tourists, or 18% of the total number of tourists who visited Greece that year, followed by Attica (2.6 million) and the Peloponnese (1.8 million). Northern Greece is the country's most-visited region, with 6.5 million tourists, while Central Greece comes second with 6.3 million.
According to a survey conducted in China in 2005, Greece was voted as the Chinese people's number one choice as a tourist destination. In November 2006, Austria, like China, announced that Greece was the favourite tourist destination for its citizens. In line with these observations, Greece's former Minister of Tourism Aris Spiliotopoulos announced the opening of a Greek National Tourism Organization office in Shanghai by the end of 2010, and GNTO currently operates two tourism offices in China, one in Shanghai and one in Beijing. It is estimated that throughout 2013 Greece welcomed over 17.8 million tourists, an increase of Increase 10% compared to 2012. More than 18.5 million tourists are expected throughout 2014.
Tourism in Greece will typically peak between May and September where approximately 75% of all tourist visits happen.